Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 September 2022) . . Page.. 2681 ..
through our true national story? These debates frequently centre around the more visible and prominent monuments in our public spaces. However, in commemoratively naming our streets, parks and other public places, they too become monuments to our history and our collective identity.
There are, of course, a diversity of views on this topic. In 2017 Stan Grant wrote:
Captain Cook’s statue stands in the centre of our biggest city. There are Indigenous people who for good reason would prefer to see it removed.
Personally I accept that it remains; Cook is part of the story of this nation.
But surely we need no longer maintain the fiction that he “discovered” this country. It dishonours the people who reached this continent 60,000 years before Cook.
This was not an empty land.
There are no easy answers to the question of whether, and how, we replace the names and faces that already exist in our places and spaces. What we can readily do, and what I believe Dr Paterson will achieve with the passage of her bill, is to take the opportunities to highlight that which unifies rather than divides us. By choosing to shift our commemorative efforts from a focus on the figures of colonisation to the champions of reconciliation, we have an opportunity to diversify and strengthen the story we tell through our public monuments.
The ACT is already leading the nation through the observance of Reconciliation Day as a public holiday, allowing all Canberrans to take a day to pause, reflect on our true history and learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, whose sovereignty of this land was never ceded. As the nation’s capital, Canberra’s monuments and place names reflect both our local identity and the national identity. Making the change proposed in Dr Paterson’s bill is not just important for the Canberra community; it is an important step in reshaping how we tell our national story in a way that is reflective of our true history and inclusive of all Australians. I commend Dr Paterson’s bill.
DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (4.19), in reply: I would like to start by thanking colleagues for their contributions to the debate, and noting that I am happy to close the debate on the in-principle stage of the Public Place Names Amendment Bill. I am proud to stand here today, representing the people of Murrumbidgee and Canberra more broadly, in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the ACT, to effect positive change towards reconciliation.
It is poignant that the debate on this bill is happening today, as the world mourns the passing of Her Majesty, a figurehead of colonialism across the commonwealth. The symbolism is not lost on me that this bill will be passed in the Assembly today to no longer hold colonisation and colonisers in the ACT in high esteem, to tell the truth about our history, and to now, in 2022, move to celebrate those people in our community that work for reconciliation. This is an opportunity for us to reflect on not only our past but our future as a nation—a future where truth-telling and reconciliation are at the heart.