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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1320 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

at the age of 19, had never been permitted to swim in the swimming pool at Moree because of the attitude of that council and the attitude that prevailed around Australia just a short time ago. The declaration of Billy McMahon, the then Prime Minister, that his Government would in no way support land rights created the environment that led to Billy Craigie and others establishing that embassy as a significant and now permanent reminder of the extent to which indigenous people in Australia had been dispossessed, had been marginalised and had been maltreated and discriminated against throughout two centuries of white occupation of Australia.

I take the point that the Chief Minister makes - that Mr Craigie, this short time later, has died at the very young age of 47. As the Chief Minister said, that does indicate to us the distance that we yet have to travel, not only in coming to a reconciliation. I am reminded of that, particularly in relation to the tent embassy, when I listen to 2CC particularly. A continuing campaign is being waged in some quarters in Canberra to have the tent embassy removed, as being a blight or blot on the nation. The blot, of course, is the treatment that indigenous people in this country have had meted out to them over the last two centuries, yet many sections of the community continue to rail against the tent embassy; to what is an enduring monument to Billy Craigie and other colleagues, and an enduring monument, as far as I am concerned, of the distance that we have yet to travel to achieve proper reconciliation.

I think it is a pity that Billy Craigie, through his efforts and his struggle, and through the disability that those people have suffered, has died at such a young age. I think that is a real tragedy for a real Australian hero. I express my condolence.

One other issue that I would quickly raise, without wishing to labour the point too much in terms of the distance yet to travel, is the revelation by the Minister for Health in the Estimates Committee a couple of weeks ago that the ACT was denied any of the Bringing them home funds for the employment of Aboriginal mental health counsellors. Even at this date there is no real recognition in some quarters. Particularly in relation to that, the Federal Government, for reasons that have not been explained at all, decided that indigenous people in the ACT did not need to be funded for the provision of mental health counsellors. So there is an enormous distance to travel. That is an issue that I will take up with the Minister for Health later.

Mr Craigie's life and efforts were a real credit to him, and to his determination and to his courage. His death was very sad and is a great loss to his people and to Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative, members standing in their places.

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