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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 539 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

Every night in our family there were enthusiastic discussions with my eight siblings, my parents and usually Grandma, and it was very unusual not to have a few other people sitting at the table. My father always said, "Just add an extra cup of water to the stew", if somebody arrived. In discussions at that dinner table I remember quite clearly focusing on this issue. I will come back to that after I have set the context.

The small primary school that I attended had a fair proportion of orphans, because the school was run by the nuns who ran the orphanage down the road. The orphanage is a quite significant landmark in Adelaide near the Goodwood Road subway, for anybody who goes that way. I do not recall how many children in that orphanage were of Aboriginal descent. I do not think I would even have known, because there was no distinction in my family about whether somebody was an Aborigine, an Italian, a Greek or whatever. We had a wide range of cross-cultural friends.

I recall very clearly the discussion, the arguments, the debate, in my family about the positive and negative aspects of taking children from their Aboriginal parents and bringing them into society. I remember arguments, on the positive side, about how they would get a better education. Most significantly, I remember that the final conclusion was that at least they would come to know God. In the end, that was the weight of argument that carried the day in my family. It was felt that although there was a terrible downside this was in fact a positive thing. We could not have been more wrong, of course. That is something that we recognise now. I must say that I am proud at least to stand up here and say sorry, not because we had any specific dealings with the particular issues but because, like the rest of society, we discussed these issues and took them seriously.

It was not really until I was in my first promotion position as a teacher in South Australia that I came to know some Aboriginal people very well. Sure, I kicked a football around with them and certainly I remember playing basketball against them in some of the other local towns, but most importantly I came to know a number of absolutely wonderful people as very good friends. I knew some of the Koolmatries - a very common name in Meningie in South Australia, where I was teaching. Bill Abdulla, who had come from another area, was a teacher aide at the school. These people were making a fantastic contribution to the school and to the local community. When you teach in a school like that - in that case there was a fair percentage of Aboriginal students, many of whom came from the local Aboriginal community - you learn to understand just what an incredibly difficult time they had and how we, as other Australians, had set up the scenarios to make it difficult for them.

It was not just about the clear issue of the stolen children. That focuses our attention very clearly, but there are so many other ways that the dominant culture made it very difficult for the individuals involved. I reiterate the point that Wayne Berry made about toughness. I saw the struggle that so many of the young people I taught had to deal with. As I developed good relationships with their parents and became good friends with them, I came to understand the sorts of struggles and the sorts of issues they had to deal with. It certainly changed my perspective significantly. It was something for which I am incredibly grateful.

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