Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 10 Hansard (15 September) . .
Indigenous Taiwanese now form two per cent of Taiwan's population, which is similar to the proportion of Australians who are Indigenous, and they number around 500,000. Like Indigenous Australians, Indigenous Taiwanese form a number of nations, with 15 "tribes" officially recognised by Taiwan's government, with a small number still unrecognised.
Indigenous Taiwanese are a Taiwanese ethnic group of Austronesian heritage. There is a strong view in academia that many of the cultures and languages across Oceania and the Indonesian archipelago originate in Taiwan, making Taiwan the primogenitor of many of our region's societies. Indigenous Taiwanese were the original inhabitants of Taiwan until mass Chinese immigration to Taiwan during the Qing dynasty shifted Taiwan's demographics in favour of Han Chinese, who now form over 95 per cent of Taiwan's population.
During the visit to Taiwan, the Assembly delegation, including me, met with representatives of the Taiwan Indigenous community. A detailed briefing of the current situation for Indigenous people in Taiwan was followed by a wide-ranging discussion that covered comparative health issues in Taiwan and Australia, land rights, education and cultural support. Of particular interest to me in this briefing were the provisions on indigenous cooperation in the recent trade agreement between Taiwan and New Zealand. These are designed to grow and enable trade as well as facilitate cultural and people-to-people links between New Zealand Maori and the Indigenous people of Taiwan.
Indigenous Taiwanese and Indigenous Australians share similar struggles. Both groups are fighting to preserve their cultures and languages in a colonised land and ensure that their cultures play a significant role in their national societies. Both groups also face the challenges of lower health and economic outcomes than their national peers.
Indigenous Taiwanese have made important contributions to Taiwan that we can learn from, including their struggle for self-determination since the 1980s and their efforts to incorporate their cultural pride into broader Taiwanese and even international culture. Indigenous Taiwanese peoples' contribution to international culture include the noted Taiwanese pop singer A-Mei.
At a political level, Indigenous Taiwanese struggle for equality and political rights. As the Taiwanese government liberalised and became more democratic during the late 1980s and 1990s, policies towards Indigenous Taiwanese culture changed from trying to force them to adopt Han Chinese culture and language towards preservation and promotion. The Taiwanese legislature now has six of its 113 seats reserved for representatives elected by Indigenous voters.
The struggles of Indigenous Taiwanese, while unique, have many common characteristics with that of Indigenous peoples across the world, including here in Australia. I certainly appreciated this unique opportunity to learn more of Taiwan and its peoples, and I look forward to the friendship continuing to grow in the future.
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