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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 530 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

without essential services. It is relevant that we focus on the fact that the Aboriginal communities in Australia suffer from entrenched poverty, that is, poverty that is self-perpetuating. It is a vicious cycle which, because of the failure of government policies, Aboriginal people have not been able to break from.

In any discussion of Sorry Day, any discussion of the events of this week, any consideration of reconciliation, it is important that we keep those sorts of statistics in mind, to give a proper focus to what it is that Sorry Day represents. The Labor Party is very pleased to be able to support Sorry Day today and the events of this week, and we give our commitment to maintaining the pace of reconciliation and our determination as a party to seek to meet the aspirations of indigenous Australians.

MR OSBORNE (10.44): I rise to support Ms Tucker's motion. I thank her for raising this issue, as I believe that it is something all Australians should be concerned with. I believe that if we as a nation are to build a better future we must acknowledge the mistakes of the past. There can be no doubt not only that Aboriginal people were dispossessed but also that their society was fractured almost beyond repair by the practice of separating children from their parents. This is something which this society should acknowledge responsibility for and apologise for, and then move on.

I am glad that last year I played a part in this chamber's acknowledgment of past injustices. One of my proudest days in the Assembly, but also one of the saddest days, was the day when we had members of the Aboriginal community address this Assembly, responding to the apology which we issued last year. That was a very moving day, as members who were here will recall, and certainly was well worth the effort. I would hope that soon the Federal Government will see its way clear to make a formal statement of apology on behalf of all Australians. I find the stance of John Howard in particular quite intriguing.

As all members will recall, last year we had a proposal for a Canberra-Nara peace park in front of the Hyatt. When it was discussed and when it became apparent that we as a Territory wished to use the word "peace", we had a number of people within the Federal Government, in particular John Howard, working behind closed doors to undermine that process. His justification for doing that was that the Japanese Government had never formally apologised for what had happened in World War II. As you will recall, Mr Speaker, the following day I tabled the front page of the Canberra Times from, I think, 1953, on which I think the headline was "Japanese PM apologises". That was not good enough for the leader of our country. He feels that it is good enough for him to apologise personally to the Aboriginals but feels no responsibility for the Government as a whole to apologise. He felt that the Japanese Prime Minister coming to this country and apologising personally, as Mr Howard had done to the Aboriginals, was not good enough. That whole issue really left a very bitter taste in my mouth. Mr Speaker, I do not believe that we as a country should have a black armband view of our history, as I think there is much to be proud of; but I also do not believe that we should tie a black blindfold over our eyes.

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