Page 1753 - Week 06 - Thursday, 3 June 2021

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It is a sad but unsurprising reality that in every single election campaign—and I have had a few—when my face is so publicly visible, my supporters and I have been confronted with comments that make it clear that I am seen as an Asian first and Elizabeth Lee the candidate second. “Where is your name from?” “Where were you born?” “Your English is really good.” “Where did you get your shoes? They must be from China.” Even recently, one of my team members received the comment “You guys are doing some good things, but your leader—she is Chinese, right?”, while screwing up their face as though they had tasted something bad.

I do not tell these stories often, but when I do, they are usually met with disgust, shock and outrage. Sadly, perhaps, because for so many of us these are occurrences we have faced all our lives, we have in many ways become immune to the shock. But what does remain, what always remains, is the sad resignation that perhaps deep down—no matter how many vegemite sandwiches we eat, no matter how many pairs of thongs we own—we will never be fully accepted by the privileged white Australians in our adopted country.

I close with a quote from Alice Amsel’s article because it sums up very well my hope and her hope for growth and learning:

It’s from diverse voices we all learn and grow—to have solidarity and empowerment when our paths overlap, wonder and empathy in parts where we differ. Stereotypes and assumptions fade into the background. We all have a seat at the table.

National Reconciliation Week—events

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (5.04): I take this opportunity as we get towards the end of Reconciliation Week just to reflect on a few of the experiences here in the ACT that I have seen and, I guess, the theme of Reconciliation Week.

On Monday we had the terrific event at the arboretum. Aside from the excellent program, I think many of us who were there were inspired to see how many Canberrans turned out. It has been reported to me that more than 8,000 people have gone through the doors at the arboretum to celebrate Reconciliation Week and that event, to share culture, to share stories and to share knowledge.

I think that that is an excellent use of having declared Reconciliation Day a public holiday. To see Canberrans taking advantage of it to participate in the true intent of that day was very inspiring and, I think, sets a strong foundation for continued learning and continued reconciliation in our city.

Of course, it is not just a public holiday. It is a day when we should reflect on, I guess, past positive actions towards Indigenous equality and justice, such as the 1967 referendum and the 1992 High Court Mabo decision, but also to remind ourselves about how far we have to go. There are many pointers to that, and some of them came through on that day in some of the panels, in some of the personal discussions that people had. But it is the true purpose of that day.

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