Page 682 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 28 March 2006

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Canberran-of-the-year award

MS MacDONALD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister, Mr Stanhope. Earlier this month the Chief Minister announced the 2006 Canberran of the year. Can he advise the Assembly how this year’s award goes some way to recognise the achievements of indigenous people in the ACT?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Ms MacDonald for the question. It was a very significant day when the announcement of the 2006 Canberran-of-the-year award was made. As members would be aware, the 2006 Canberran of the year is Ms Matilda House. I do not think there is a more fitting recipient of the award. It was a great honour and privilege for me to be able to make that presentation, along with the presentation of Chief Minister’s gold awards to 240 Canberrans who have lived in and contributed to Canberra for at least 50 years of their lives. We need to reflect on the enormous contribution by Canberrans to their community. That 50-year period comprises not just living and working but everything that goes with it such as the running of tuckshops and scout groups—all the work that goes into building a community and society. To spend 50 years living in the one place shows a very real and fair commitment to that place. Over the past two years I have had the great privilege of presenting 1,200 to 1,400 Chief Minister’s gold awards to those longstanding citizens of the ACT.

Of course, we marvel at 50 years contribution to the community. That is in a situation or environment where within our community there are descendants of people who we know lived here for 25,000 to 26,000 years, in terms of our understanding of indigenous life within what is now the ACT. Among those is, of course, Matilda House. So whilst on that occasion we applauded, recognised and acknowledged those who have lived here for 50 years, I think it is particularly fitting that, for the first time we recognise somebody, whose blood has been coursing through the veins of those who occupied this place for 26,000 years, as Canberra citizen of the year. To the extent that it is not just an acknowledgment of the wonderful work which Matilda House does for her community, it is also a recognition and acknowledgment of those 26,000 years of continuous occupation of the ACT by the Ngunnawal people and by people who Matilda House is proud to claim as her direct ancestors.

Having said that, it needs to be acknowledged that Matilda has significant extended family responsibilities. She is now the very proud grandmother of eight or 10 grandchildren. It is also important to acknowledge the enormous workload Matilda House has traditionally carried as a representative of indigenous people within the ACT—even now. For instance, she is on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Consultative Council; she is on the aboriginal justice advisory committee; she is co-chair of the Namadgi board of management; she is chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural centre board at Yarramundi Reach; and for many years she has served on the Queanbeyan regional council of ATSIC and the Ngunnawal Aboriginal Land Council. Indeed, it is always with pride that Matilda points to photographs of herself on the day of the establishment of the tent embassy in front of Parliament House. Her level of activism and direct support for indigenous issues now extends back to that significant point in the history of the indigenous march for justice in Australia.

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