Page 3902 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 30 November 2021

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It was set up as a site of protest and an opportunity to bring to national attention a list of demands that included, among other things, ownership and mining rights of all other Aboriginal reserve lands in Australia, the preservation of all sacred sites in Australia and compensation for lands that were not able to be returned.

The Aboriginal flag was first raised in Canberra on that day because, although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations people of Australia have suffered countless injustices, all of those injustices started from one single event—the invasion of this country and the taking of their land without their consent.

While the goals of protesters have changed over time, and now include not only land rights but also Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination, the issues they raised back then remain pertinent today. Just this week, we have seen support up on the hill for the fracking and destruction of the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory. In 2020 we had the destruction of two ancient rock shelters in the Juukan Gorge. We see Adani destroying land and culture in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, and in Victoria we have seen the removal of sacred birthing trees, and we know that more will be permanently destroyed by the 72 new coal projects and 44 new gas projects proposed by the federal government around the country.

This destruction is not only harming our planet and contributing to global warming and the disastrous effects of climate change; it is destroying the cultural heritage of our First Nations people. It is destroying the songlines, flooding sites of historic cultural significance, and severing their continuing connection to country. It is and remains a travesty.

Today I wish to take this opportunity, before the sitting year finishes, to reflect that 26 January 2022 will be the 50th anniversary of the Tent Embassy, and reflect that there is much unfinished business. We have a long way to go to progress the truth, treaty and voice called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We have a long way to go to repair the injustice of the past. I know there will be many Canberrans, and undoubtedly people from other parts of Australia, standing alongside our First Nations brothers and sisters in solidarity on the anniversary.

The simple fact that the Tent Embassy still stands 50 years on is a testament to the conviction of so many people over many years to fight for justice and a better future, but it is also a stark reminder to us all of the effort we must make in the future to address the unfinished business. With no further opportunity before 26 January, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on an important occasion this evening.

I also want to thank Minister Cheyne and Ms Lee for their remarks about Andy Prowse. Whilst I did not know Andy to the depth that they both did, in my former role as the Minister for Mental Health I worked a lot with Heidi and I also know her through the netball connections. I take this opportunity to offer my condolences and thank the two earlier speakers for those reflections on what has been a very difficult time for Heidi and her family.

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