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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 906 ..

Aboriginal tent embassy

MR HARGREAVES: Is the Chief Minister aware of a reported decision by the ACT branch of the Liberal Party to push for the removal of the Aboriginal tent embassy? Does the government support such a move?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you for the question, Mr Hargreaves. It is a particularly important question. Yes, I am aware of reports that the ACT branch of the Liberal Party believes that the tent embassy in Canberra should be removed, and I am concerned and distressed that that is their view.

The Aboriginal tent embassy is a significant institution for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is the most significant and enduring of the symbols of Aboriginal struggle and disadvantage in Australia. Its significance for indigenous people is that it is a powerful symbol of the struggle they have endured and maintained in their quest for justice and in their continuing quest to highlight the extent to which indigenous people have suffered dispossession and have been and continue to be disadvantaged.

In the context of the Liberal Party's desire to see the tent embassy removed, it is relevant that we acknowledge the circumstances of indigenous people in Australia. Even today, half of all indigenous men in Australia die by the age of 49, and half of all indigenous women die by the age of 59. This compares with an average life expectancy of non-indigenous people of 77 and 82, respectively.

Only 39 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families live in homes that they own or are purchasing, compared to over 70 per cent of the non-indigenous population. The average weekly income for indigenous people in the ACT is $306, as against an average weekly income of $402 for non-indigenous people. This is the last time the ABS reported on these statistics. In the last ABS report, 17 per cent of indigenous people in the ACT were unemployed, whereas 7 per cent of non-indigenous were unemployed.

Mr Cornwell: Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order. I think the question related to the Aboriginal tent embassy. I am not even sure that the question is in order in any event because it is asking about the Liberal Party of Australia rather than that of the ACT.

MR SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Cornwell. The question was about indigenous people-it was about the tent embassy-and so far the Chief Minister's response has been about indigenous people. I think the question is in order and the answer is in order as well.

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, I am giving background to the importance of the tent embassy for indigenous people and that is very relevant to the question I was asked.

The tent embassy has now been in existence for 30 years. This year it had its thirtieth anniversary. It was established on 26 January 1972 in response to decisions taken at that time by the federal government in relation to the offering of leases on the land of traditional owners. The protests continued intermittently there until 1992. In 1995 the tent embassy was registered on the Register of the National Estate. It is interesting that we are talking about a structure that is registered on the Register of the National Estate, yet the Liberal Party feel no compunction about suggesting that it should be removed.

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