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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 5144 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

I am pretty proud of my country and its history and I recognise its strengths and weaknesses. We, as Australians, must be very open about that. We have to recognise Australia's strengths and weaknesses. On Australia Day we need to reflect on our weaknesses as well as celebrate our strengths. Most Australians do that in balance. At the end of the day, they will still be proud of the day they are celebrating and what the day means. By downgrading its support, this government demonstrates that it is not particularly proud of this country's history.

The comments made by the Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services a little while ago about the Prime Minister again demonstrates the ACT government's propensity to politicise issues about Australia Day, just as the Chief Minister did in this place in question time recently. He seemed to demonstrate his ambivalence to Australia Day, and in fact used the occasion to politically bash the federal government. If that is what Australia Day means to the Chief Minister, I pity him. If that is all he can talk about when we raise the issue of the importance of Australia Day, it is a pretty sad reflection on him.

I want our schoolchildren to recognise the gravity of the occasion. The community expects the education department to not only direct its schools to teach the importance of Australia Day but also encourage our kids to join in these celebrations. If the education department and any other government department, which have responsibilities to talk up and promote Australia Day, are looking to the government for inspiration and leadership they will not find it. We want our children to learn about our history and to be proud of this nation. Australia Day is a very strong anchor point in that process. This government is not demonstrating that when it denies funding to the Australia Day committee.

Why does the government need to interfere with the Australia Day committee? Why is it necessary to interfere with an activity that has run so well for so many years? A little earlier Mr Stefaniak quite colourfully described the activities that have characterised so many successful celebrations of Australia Day in Canberra. Can you imagine how those who have been deeply involved over the years in organising, planning, coordinating and implementing Australia Day activities would be feeling?

I implore the government to reverse its decision, to take a stronger interest in and underscore the importance of Australia Day and to demonstrate a little leadership to the ACT community rather than making it look as if this is just another pesky day-just another budget cut-a day of not much importance.

MS DUNDAS (6.12): Australia Day has significance for many in the community-most of all for our indigenous people, who refer to it as invasion day. I clearly remember last year's Australia Day celebration at Federation Square. We could hear the impassioned pleas of protest coming from the tent embassy, echoing all the way down to the shore of Lake Burley Griffin.

The ACT government funds many worthwhile festivals and community events. It provides funding for the Multicultural Festival, the NADOC Week celebrations, Youth Week events, the Spring Out Festival and festivities to mark the International Day of the Older Person, International Day of Women and Carer's Week. The list does go on and on about the money that goes to community events. All these festivals celebrate who we are as Australians.

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