Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 537 ..
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (11.17): Mr Speaker, history is something I do not think we ever should forget. If we do not remember where we came from, we will have trouble working out where we are going. Back in 1990 I was browsing through an old bookshop in Hobart and saw a print of the last four remaining full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigines circa 1867 - one man and three women, all in late middle age, all in European clothing, basically the end of a race. I bought that print and it is hanging up on a wall in my home. It is a very good print but a very sad reminder of some of the excesses of the past.
I grew up in Canberra, as most members know, and I went to school here. I remember one of my friends at Narrabundah High School. His mother was English and his father was the first Aboriginal officer in the Australian Army, Reg Saunders. Reg served with distinction through World War II, attaining the rank of sergeant and then being commissioned in the field. He left the Army with the rank of captain. Again he served with distinction in Korea, winning a medal in a famous battle which was fought on Anzac Day in 1951, when Australian troops, including Captain Saunders, held out against overwhelming odds on a hillside near Kapyong in the face of a massive Chinese attack. I remember talking on many occasions to my friend's father, Reg, who was a most impressive man. He lived just down the road from us. I suppose that was my first real brush with our rich Aboriginal indigenous culture in Australia.
Like Mr Quinlan and Mr Osborne, I have played football with a number of very fine Aboriginal players. I have just signed a letter to John Hargreaves in relation to a particular event which I will mention, because I think it shows the way forward to the future. I have been very pleased to see steps taken in the ACT, over the last few years especially, to assist indigenous people. I was delighted to see the success our boys had in the recent Lloyd McDermott Cup. It was the first time two ACT indigenous teams had gone to Sydney to play in that competition. Allan Hird from the department and I went down for the day. The ACT reached the final in both the under-15s and the opens. I saw about three of the open games, and the boys were really impressive. The cup is organised by a number of very prominent Aboriginal sportsmen, including Gary Ella, one of the famous Ella brothers. It was just great to see how well the ACT teams went.
One of the assistants who took our boys down was a friend of mine, Bruce Garrett. Bruce and I played rugby at Royals in the early 1980s. Bruce, probably like me, is still trotting around. We should have more sense. He is about 43 now, but he still trots around and plays rugby league with, I think, a second division team which operates out of Boomanulla Oval. It was good to see two of Bruce's young blokes playing in the XV side. It was also good to see a couple of our departmental Aboriginal liaison officers who assist with the local Aboriginal community in our schools. I think our schools do a great job in ensuring that Aboriginal culture and traditions that go back thousands and thousands of years are made known to our students, unlike the time when I went through school, when I think you had only one unit of Australian history, which you were taught in third year. It did not deal very much with our indigenous history, which goes back some 40,000 years. It was good to see Bruce involved.