Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 8 Hansard (4 August) . .
Motion (by Ms Burch) proposed:
That the Assembly do now adjourn.
MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Minister for Housing, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Community Services, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Women and Minister assisting the Chief Minister on Social Inclusion and Equality) (5.21): I would like to make some comments on the national debate that has occurred around the treatment of Adam Goodes. Obviously, the news that he has felt the love of his fans and is back in training with the Swans and likely to take to the field this weekend was great to read.
I was one of probably thousands of people who sent a supporting message to Adam last week, and no doubt the groundswell of public support has helped him make this decision. It was moving to see how strongly the AFL and much of the broader community rallied behind him over the weekend. Let us hope that this episode of racist behaviour is now over. But even with that being so, this conversation has come so far that it exposes some of the darker feelings and some of the fears which run through parts of the Australian community. It has, very sadly, shown some of the limits of our understanding and our empathy. It has questioned our self-confidence and our willingness to truly open ourselves up to strong and equal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in Australia today and therefore to true reconciliation.
Perhaps most of all, it has reminded us non-Indigenous people how we fail to grasp the magnitude of the intergenerational pain which affects so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. It is not confined to the old, the poor or the remote. The legacy of discrimination and dispossession lives on among all ages and classes, and it will do so among children yet to be born.
Recent history is paved with governments wanting to reduce the inequality and injustice which persist for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians—and making too little progress, time after time. Where gains have been made, they have often rested on the leadership of prominent Aboriginal people, using their standing to reach out to others in the community to offer support or mentorship and inspire pride and confidence. Last year Adam Goodes was honoured as Australian of the Year because of his exceptional record in doing these things, yet somehow we have recently got to the point where he has been booed and jeered on the football field in a systematic way.
This has been amplified through some media commentators eager to pass judgement and, of course, the open slather of social media. People have been at pains to argue that, far from being racial, the booing is personal, as if this is somehow more defensible, as if to attack someone for the way they express their cultural identity can be separated from the culture that they are expressing. Whatever the motivations, the impact of this behaviour is clear, not just on Adam Goodes himself but on Aboriginal
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