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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2485 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

agreement with Aboriginal people on the basis of a just accounting for the land is a vital and precedent-setting first step. I trust that it will be a step we will take together as a community.

Mr Speaker, I commend this motion. I think that the process that has been followed by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation has been a good one. I have attended some of the functions that have been organised by the council and I have great faith in what we have here being the basis for national reconciliation as well. But we in the ACT pride ourselves on being a progressive community, on being at the forefront of debates of this kind, and I hope that we will be able to move forward on this issue in a way which will engage the entire community.

MR HARGREAVES (11.39): Mr Speaker, I have to say that I am very keen to throw whatever small weight I have behind not only the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation's initiatives but also the Government's commitment to putting some reality into them and I am rather heartened that both sides of this chamber and, I hope, the crossbench will be united and unanimous at the end of the day.

I looked up a dictionary to see how the word "reconciliation" is defined. I wonder how many of us have actually done that recently. There are a number of definitions and they are very interesting. The first couple went to reconciliation being about healing, settling and harmonising. Those are the ones that most people would take as the meaning. It also means to make friendly after estrangement, and I think that one is particularly apt as well. We have had an estrangement between our two communities in our attempts to make for one community for 200 years or so, and I think that if we approach all of our activities with that intention of making friendly after an estrangement we will go a long way towards achieving our goal. However, there is another meaning which I think is more likely to be espoused by Mr Howard in his reluctance to apologise to the Aboriginal community on behalf of all of us, and that meaning is "to make acquiescent or contentedly submissive". I think that would be his preferred position, and I think that that is terrible.

The council's work, provided sufficient members of our community have read their report and followed the issue, has opened the eyes of the wider community to the plight and suffering many indigenous Australians have experienced and are still experiencing. We have come a long way with reconciliation, but there are still people within our communities who fail to see the issue. Again I mention the Hon. John Howard, who seems to have missed the point. Saying sorry is not just symbolic; it is an enormous step. It is actually reaching into your own heart and saying to somebody, "I am sorry that something really awful has happened to you". It is not an admission of guilt. The sooner Mr Howard wakes up to the fact that it is not an admission of guilt, that it is merely an expression of regret that something really awful has happened to somebody else, and makes that expression of regret on behalf of the rest of us, the sooner we can put a lot of these things to bed.

Saying sorry to the families of the past will allow us to plan for the future, to stop looking backwards, to start looking forwards. Failure to say sorry has brought much pain and anguish to many Australians, both indigenous people and non-indigenous people. Reconciliation is about Australia's future. As we enter the new millennium, it

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