Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 14 February 2008) . . Page.. 230 ..
weeks that you cannot separate the symbolic or, as I would call it, the spiritual from the practical, I disagree. Yes, there is a plethora of practical matters that go to the heart of good governance regarding how we as a nation look after our Indigenous people and there are urgent debates that I feel strongly about, but these are matters for another day. These debates about the practicalities should not be allowed to confuse or qualify the very important occasion this week—this momentous occasion when it has been necessary to say sorry to the stolen generations in particular, and to Aboriginal society in general, for some things that happened in our history. Yesterday’s occasion was an important circuit breaker in how this country moves forward in addressing some very important issues.
I am sorry that various commonwealth, state and territorial authorities decided that it was good policy to separate Indigenous children from their mothers and fathers—and in most cases their siblings too—and their communities, to have them raised in white society. The attitude was that this was the way to do things. I am sorry that, through this part of our history, such officials sought to exercise some form of so-called assimilation, which seemed to have been aimed, at least in the minds of these officials, at transporting Aboriginal society into a white Western society, to the exclusion of an ancient society that had clearly stood the test of time over at least 40,000 to 50,000 years.
I was pleased to see the federal Leader of the Opposition stand in concert with the Prime Minister yesterday, in a bipartisan fashion, to deliver the “sorry” statements. While his statement was controversial in some respects—and there has been some debate about that—it was at least an important start by the Liberal Party of Australia in moving to the next phase which must follow this most important “sorry” message occasion.
I remind you, Mr Speaker, that the ACT opposition were firmly of the view that an apology had to be made to the stolen generations and stated their intention clearly in this place in 1997. The Bringing them home report at that time was a sobering reminder of generations of pain and suffering.
I look forward to participating in the territory and, indeed, national debate about where we as parliaments, governments and oppositions should go in ensuring the very urgent and practical initiatives that must start to happen in order to reverse the decades of neglect of this country’s Aboriginal management.
I am a great fan of Noel Pearson. I vigorously support his views on what needs to be done to arrest the ongoing deterioration of Aboriginal communities right across the country. He is right when he says that saying sorry will not be enough; nevertheless, the “sorry” statements made in the last 48 hours have been very important.
In conclusion, I repeat: I say sorry on behalf of my society to the Aboriginal communities for what has happened at times in our Australian history.
MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (10.56): I rise to support the Chief Minister’s motion. It is timely that we reaffirm what we said as a community in 1997, and I applaud the Chief Minister at the time for bringing that motion forward. I