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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 31 March 2021) . . Page.. 689 ..

I would encourage every member to consider signing this representation on behalf of our community. I suspect that people will be reading and discussing these representations for some years to come, though, so it is worth taking personal responsibility and signing this letter if you consider the issue to be important.

I will close with a Martin Luther King Jnr quote:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

It has done so in the past on other challenging issues in this country. Social reform in Australia is difficult; it does not come easily, and it requires the collective work of many good people. Today, collectively, we are taking a further step towards an important reform and a restoration of democratic rights for territory residents—Canberrans and those in the Northern Territory. I commend the motion and thank each of the movers for their contributions to this debate today and into the future.

MS VASSAROTTI (Kurrajong) (11.34): I rise to support this motion and, in particular, commend this as an example of how our Assembly can come together to progress important issues such as territory rights. We come together as a parliament in a jurisdiction that was created to host our federal parliament. It is with some irony that this has resulted in our community being in a situation where we have less rights than other Australians, and we are prevented from having conversations about how we govern ourselves, particularly on an issue of sensitivity.

This is an issue that has been discussed in the Legislative Assembly for a long time, and it is really significant that today we have arrived at a point where all parties in the Assembly are coming together to ask the federal parliament to provide self-determination to its territory citizens. This is about leaving behind the shackles of paternalism and moral judgement, and instead trusting citizens of the territories to make decisions on issues that matter to them. Removing the restriction of territory rights would enable Canberrans to be able to engage and enact their democratic rights on the same terms as other Australians.

We have to acknowledge that we need to have conversations about things that are difficult and confronting, like the one that we need to have about voluntary assisted dying. It is an issue of great sensitivity, and one that needs deep and respectful community-led conversation to ensure that we get the balance right between dignity in death and respect of life.

Surveys suggest that a majority of Australians believe that there should be capacity for people to access assisted death in instances where they have a terminal illness and are facing great pain. There are also legitimate concerns regarding the shape that any laws take on this issue. I do have deep respect for disability advocates who have real fears about how these types of laws might be drafted and the impact that they might have on particular groups in the community. There are opportunities to support these discussions through mechanisms such as deliberative democratic processes.

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