Page 3075 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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As part of what might be termed an aesthetic cleansing process, governments have tried to trade off removal of the embassy in return for permanent meeting rooms, memorial plaques and reconciliation paths. Recently, such a process was instigated by the federal government’s territory’s minister, Jim Lloyd, who announced on 1 August 2005 that consultants had been appointed to facilitate discussions on the future of the Aboriginal tent embassy.

When we talk about the ACT’s indigenous community, often we think only of the Ngunnawal people and sometimes the Wiradjuri people, the traditional owners of this land and frequent visitors to it; but the indigenous community in Canberra, which consists of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from right across the continent, is the most diverse in Australia. In this national capital it is important and appropriate that indigenous people from all parts of Australia are involved in the public service that creates and delivers programs to indigenous people and in other programs. As representatives of the Canberra community and supporters of indigenous communities everywhere, we should assist the fight to keep the tent embassy exactly where it is until there is no support or enthusiasm for it coming from indigenous people around Australia.

I would finally add that I notice that Minister Lloyd, in setting up the latest consultation on the future of the embassy, has failed to include a resident or a representative of the embassy in the group. I was very disappointed to notice that the Chief Minister, in his support for the consultation process, did not pick up on this exclusion. No process to deal with the future of the site, which, I have to say, is looking very beautiful and well cared for at the moment, can be fair and just if it does not include the residents.

Mr Deputy Speaker, there are a number of other issues that I could speak on today—for instance, the consultations on the prison in regard to how it can best assist in the rehabilitation and refinding of self-esteem of indigenous prisoners; public service recruitment, for which we noted during the annual reports process there was quite a lack of indigenous people amongst employees; reconciliation, which has to function at the neighbourhood level as well as at a national level; and education and the particular needs of indigenous people—but time does not permit. I expect that we will be returning to the topic again and again over the life of this Assembly.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.44): I welcome the opportunity to speak today on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs in the ACT. The minister outlined the work the ACT government is doing in this regard. I would like to touch on one of the most important issues we face as we move forward in our efforts to overcome indigenous disadvantage.

Only five years ago, the prospects for real and meaningful reconciliation looked excellent, but lack of political leadership at the highest levels in this country has seen reconciliation slip from the national agenda. We, as the elected representatives of all members of our community, must work together towards a true and lasting reconciliation. We need to get the process back on its feet.

The ACT government acknowledges that the reconciliation process has a direct impact on the wellbeing of all of our community. It is important to remember that reconciliation involves a wide scope of general, everyday issues. The ACT government is focusing on

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