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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 529 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

We heard how three generations of one family were affected by forcible removal policies. These survivors of the stolen generation showed to all of us present that forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from their families and communities was totally devastating.

Sorry Day gives us an opportunity not only to say sorry for the atrocities of the past but also to help in the healing process. I am confident that all of the people in Australia - children, leaders of churches, members of this Assembly, members of parliament generally, the community generally - will reaffirm on this first Sorry Day our commitment to help with that healing process, to be part of that healing process and, I suppose, to ensure that something as abhorrent as the stolen generations episode does not happen in this country again. Mr Speaker, let us hope that every Sorry Day we have in the future will be a milestone for better recognition of our indigenous people, their rights, their cultures and their futures.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (10.40): I would like to join with Ms Tucker and the Chief Minister to express the support of the Labor Party for Sorry Day today, to acknowledge the importance of a day such as this in terms of its capacity to keep a national focus on the fact that in the two centuries of white occupation of this continent indigenous Australians have been devastated and to concentrate our attention on the fact that indigenous people in Australia today still suffer appallingly as a result of the destruction of their culture and the entrenched poverty that afflicts so many of them.

The Bringing them home report was a very important milestone on the road to reconciliation between indigenous and other Australians. We cannot underestimate the significance of that inquiry and of that report to indigenous people. However, on a day such as today - the first anniversary of the tabling of the report in the Federal Parliament - it is good for us to think a little bit about the continuing discrimination suffered by indigenous Australians and for us to focus on the pain and the suffering which a policy such as the forced separation of children created for so many Australians and the appalling unfairness and distress that that policy caused.

It is important that we do not gloss over the continuing discrimination which indigenous Australians suffer. I think it is worth putting on the record in this place and continually reminding ourselves of some of the statistics that starkly reveal the circumstances of indigenous Australians. I will now do that. Today, in 1998, indigenous Australians die, on average, 15 to 20 years earlier than other Australians and are far more likely to suffer infectious diseases and chronic diseases. The unemployment rate for indigenous people is an estimated 23 per cent, as against about 8 per cent for the general community, and incomes for indigenous people are approximately two-thirds of the Australian average.

Less than one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are finishing secondary school, compared with a national retention rate of around 70 per cent. Aboriginal people are overrepresented in the criminal justice system by a factor of at least 15. Aboriginal people are far more likely to live in poor and overcrowded housing

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