Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2479 ..
MS CARNELL (continuing):Mr Speaker, by supporting this motion the Assembly has, again, an opportunity to demonstrate its continuing commitment to meaningful reconciliation with indigenous people. Mr Speaker, I circulated the motion to members of the Assembly and asked for input. Some input was received from Ms Tucker and that has been incorporated in the motion. Of course, the wording of the motion did come from the National Council for Reconciliation, Ms Evelyn Scott, so I would assume that Ms Tucker consulted with them when making the changes. Mr Speaker, we do not have any problems with those changes.
I urge all members to support this motion on reconciliation. The ACT Legislative Assembly has passed two previous motions in this area. As we would all be aware, this Assembly has been more than happy, and perceived it appropriate, to say sorry, to use Mr Berry's words just then, and to do everything we can as an Assembly to ensure that the reconciliation process does continue and is a grass roots indication of what every Australian believes, and that is that indigenous people in this country are a very integral part of the future of this nation, just as they were an integral part of the past.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.12): Mr Speaker, I join with the Chief Minister in supporting and endorsing this motion. Last week I had the privilege of visiting the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. As a guest of the institute, I was briefed on the work being done there and on the organisation's aspirations as it prepares to move to a new permanent home associated with the National Museum now under construction on Acton Peninsula. My host presented me with a memento of my visit, a copy of their CD based "Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia", edited by David Horton. It is an innovative and valuable resource that in a few days has taught me a lot more than I thought I knew.
In the context of this debate, I was particularly struck by David Horton's opening comment in his introduction to the encyclopedia - "Aboriginal people have been in Australia for more than 18 million days". That short, stark statement I think puts this debate in quite a dramatic context. Eighteen million days is an extraordinarily long time. It is a time during which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have developed a broadly diverse culture. They spoke hundreds of languages, each characterised by several dialects. There were differences in initiation rights, differences in the ways each group of people celebrated their culture in song and dance, and differences in the ways in which they lived. All these things differed subtly between neighbours, and more distinctly over greater distance.
As David Horton points out, diversity has always been a feature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander society - diversity, but not difference. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are recognised, and have recognised each other, as one people. Against the indigenous presence in this land of 18 million days, European settlers have a history of less than 100,000 days, but have had, of course, a far greater impact on the physical environment.