Page 235 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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initially reluctant Liberal government to move it. But Mrs Carnell did do it. As Chief Minister, it was right that she did, on behalf of ACT residents—as it is right that Mr Rudd should, and did, on behalf of all Australians.

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (11.14): In addressing this motion, I cannot help but draw on my own experience of life, as others have done here today. Next Tuesday is a significant day for my family: my mother turns 70. In spite of the difficult relationship with my mother, I cannot imagine what my life would be—where I would be—without my mother. I also cannot imagine growing up having been ripped away from the love of my brother and my late father—and my nana, my oma, my uncles and aunts, my cousins.

For the policy of separation of previous governments, for the ongoing pain that has been caused, I am deeply sorry. The policies were wrong, whether they were done with best intentions or whether they were done to try to deal with—and I quote—“the problem of the Aboriginal population”. For those who claim that the separations occurred because of good intentions and to improve the living conditions of the children, I would say that you cannot improve a child’s life by ripping them away from all of their history, all of their culture and all of their family. I would even suggest that the policy borders on genocide.

I am sorry to say that this country, from time to time, has a racist vein that runs through it. I remember many years ago, when my father was still alive, we were visiting my uncle and aunt in Gulargambone in western New South Wales. My father and uncle went to the local pub and my father could not get served because he was standing in the Aboriginals bar. He was told that if he wanted to be served he would have to move into the white persons bar.

I hope and pray that the Prime Minister’s apology yesterday is the beginning of the healing process and that the first people of our country can accept this apology in the spirit that it is meant. We have a long path to walk, but I now have hope that the Australian people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, can walk it together in peace and healing.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.17): I am pleased to join with the Chief Minister and my colleagues in support of this motion today. Wednesday, 13 February was a historic day when, on behalf of all Australians, the Prime Minister said sorry—when the Prime Minister apologised to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the policies of separation and assimilation, policies which brought the terrible notion of the stolen generation into our lexicon.

There was another historic day, Mr Speaker, and that was 17 June 1997, when this Assembly became the first jurisdiction to apologise in response to the Bringing them home report, a report which had been published only two months before. I am proud to be a successor of those Liberal politicians and the Liberal Chief Minister who brought forward that motion—at a time when there was much less appreciation in the community of the need for that apology than there is today.

The clear message that came from yesterday’s outpouring of emotion is the impact that these policies—this policy of bringing about stolen generations—had on families:

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