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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 3177..


MS PORTER (continuing):

memorial at Weston Park on Sunday last, attended by about 3,000 people, I would guess. The Chief Minister spoke about the 353 people, 146 children, 142 women and 65 men who lost their lives on that fateful day. They were 353 people just looking for a new life away from the hardships they were attempting to escape. Mr Steve Biddulph and the Reverend Horsfield first thought of the idea of a memorial, and the idea grew as it was shared, as is often the case when the community identifies something that needs to be done.

Some 250 schools, churches and community groups around Australia took part in decorating the 353 poles which were raised by the lake on Sunday. I felt a deep sense of sadness and shame as I witnessed the event, as well as a feeling of gratitude to those who worked so hard to achieve this significant event, in lieu of any permanent memorial to those lives lost. My shame was in being a citizen of a country which sings of boundless plains to share, yet a leaky boat carrying nearly 400 people fleeing great hardship was allowed to sink while those people attempted to reach the shores we are so proud to sing of.

The second event I attended was the launch of Anti-Poverty Week, where I was reminded that our Australian mortality rate shows that indigenous men and women still die 20 and 17 years earlier than their non-indigenous brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, we still record much worse health outcomes in several critical areas for indigenous people in Australia.

The last event that caused me to reflect was our current federal government's failure with regard to reconciliation for our indigenous people. I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at the ANU last night, where I heard Phil Fontaine, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, outline the progress the indigenous people of that country have made towards reconciliation. Although not complete, it is clear that this process is far more advanced than our attempts at reconciliation with our indigenous brothers and sisters in Australia. I found it heartening to hear the Canadian experience. But it was depressing at the same time as I see that the achievements by our current government and our current Prime Minister are nowhere near those of the Canadian government, and reconciliation seems nowhere near on the horizon or likely to be, for that matter, for quite a while.

Finally, I attended two events at the Uniting Church at Kippax on the weekend, celebrating the reopening of their church after it was tragically, extensively damaged by fire last Christmas Eve. I was encouraged by the hope and energy expressed and the sense of a strong community working together to overcome a disaster which, although relatively small, was significant to all concerned. I was also encouraged by the way the community not only overcame their difficulty but also used that experience to reach out to others, including those of other faiths, and to their surrounding community in a truly inclusive and generous way. I commend the Reverend Gordon Ramsay, his congregation and the staff of UnitingCare, Kippax.

Friends of Syria

Damascus-liberation

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (5.27): I rise tonight to bring to the attention of members and the people of Canberra a group called the Friends of Syria, who meet regularly at the


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