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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 533 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

I believe, Mr Speaker, that the sorts of activities which are taking place in this community are a positive step along that path. In that spirit it is appropriate for the Assembly itself to take part in, and acknowledge the contribution which we can make to, that process and to reflect that community involvement and concern. Many of us will have signed the sorry book which Mr Stanhope brought to the Assembly a couple of weeks ago, and in the course of today others will be involved in activities which will make a testament on the public record of the Government's and the Assembly's concern about the need to ensure that the wrongs of the past are acknowledged and a new course is set for the future to guarantee that such injustices are not perpetrated again.

The day last year when members of the Aboriginal community came to the bar of the Assembly and told their stories in their words to this chamber was a turning point in this debate. I certainly felt very differently about the issue of the stolen generation after that event. I have to confess that before that day I felt a little bit in dread of the idea of bringing people onto the floor of the Assembly to address us on this issue. I felt that the event could be either politically very unsettling or, at worst, very tedious. I have to say that listening to the stories of those people as they told them at the bar of the chamber was an extremely moving experience, one which I believe would change the view of any fair-minded Australian who heard those stories. Frankly, it was hard to avoid tears on occasions, listening to the stories that those people had to tell.

Mr Speaker, Sorry Day as a public commitment towards regret and a desire for change is itself important, but of perhaps much greater importance are tangible, substantial acts of restitution. This Assembly plays a pre-eminent role in being able to bring forward such acts and to ensure that such acts are seen in the public eye and constitute a genuine attempt to acknowledge the wrongs of the past. The ACT Government's most important exercise in this respect concerns the settlement of native title claims in respect of parts of the ACT.

Mr Speaker, I again put on the record this Government's determination to ensure that claims are settled on just terms and at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that dispossessed members of the indigenous community of this city and this area have an act of restitution made in their favour. That will be a process with a number of hurdles to overcome, and we have encountered some of those already; but I hope that we can call on all members of the Assembly to support the process of settling those matters as soon and as fully as possible, to back up with substantive action the words of regret we use in this place. Mr Speaker, I believe that will be a further step in the process towards genuine reconciliation with the indigenous people of this land.

MR CORBELL (11.03): Mr Speaker, I commend Ms Tucker for bringing this motion forward this morning. In reflecting on the debate, I feel very strongly that it is very important that members of this place emphasise the activity and enormous involvement of ordinary people in Sorry Day activities, in the many activities that have led up to this day and in the very many activities that have been involved in the reconciliation process more generally. I have been struck very strongly by the enormous commitment that ordinary members of our community are showing to the process of reconciliation. To me, that is

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