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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2483 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

We can endorse this motion today, and I am sure that we will, but it means little if our hearts are not in it. I urge all members to treat the issue of reconciliation with indigenous Australians with the importance that it must command if this nation is ever to realise the enormous potential it has in all its people.

MR SPEAKER: I wish to address remarks briefly to the gallery. You are most welcome to come and listen to the debate, but I have to ask you to do so in silence. Thank you.

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety (11.30): I also want to contribute to this debate and I think, just to start, I also should address some comments to those in the gallery concerning the issue which obviously brings them to the Assembly today. I understand that the Chief Minister and the Minister for Health and Community Care have indicated their willingness to meet a delegation of the nurses. I understand that that message has been sent down and I hope that there will be a productive meeting and that we will be able to proceed now to debate uninterrupted an issue of considerable importance to the community and to our future as a society.

Mr Stanhope: Relevance, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, I do uphold the point of order.

MR HUMPHRIES: I think it is important to record that the offer was made before the disruption occurred.

Mr Speaker, the issue before us is very important. It is about the future of this community and its capacity to exist on a basis that will be sustainable into the future. We have all seen on our television screens and perhaps at closer hand instances of communities around the world failing to deal with fundamental and sometimes irreconcilable differences about matters to do with race, to do with ethnic differences, to do with beliefs and to do with religion. To achieve a society which is free of fundamental tensions on those things, we as an Australian community need constantly to review where we are going and what we are achieving with respect to the assimilation of those people who make up our community.

Undoubtedly, we have not succeeded as a society in fully addressing the issues represented by Aboriginal dispossession in the past and the process of national reconciliation with the indigenous community of this country is an essential process in being able to deal with that issue adequately for the future's sake. Mr Speaker, I do not believe that we can separate the future welfare of this country from this issue. I believe that without meaningful, sincere and community based reconciliation our future as a stable, democratic, tolerant society is at risk. I might point out that the comments I make on this subject, as were comments of the Chief Minister, are made on behalf of my colleagues who will not have a chance to speak in this debate today, including my colleague Mr Moore.

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