Page 236 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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on mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins.

When I came into this place, I said this in my maiden speech:

… most people know … that I am the mother of five splendid children who are the centrepiece of my life. I come into this place with an abiding belief in the primacy of the family in our society, and the pressing need to elevate the idea of family, to make it a prism through which policy can be viewed and evaluated.

I went on to say:

As long as I am here, I will work to ensure that the family is at the centre, not the periphery, of the political process.

The message that came home to me over the years, through the discussion about whether or not there should be an apology, is that there needs to be an apology because of the impact that these policies—however well intentioned they may have been or however well intentioned people may have thought them to be at the time—have had: an enormous and terrible impact upon Indigenous families in Australia.

I am certain that much of what has happened to Indigenous people—as the Chief Minister has said, the fact is that Indigenous people still have a life expectancy 20 years less than their white counterparts and Indigenous families still struggle with low employment, low educational outcomes, substance abuse and bad health—is in many ways a direct result of the impact of these policies and the breakdown of families that has been brought about by these policies of assimilation and separation.

I am proud and humbled to be part of the Assembly, an organisation which so early in the process took the step of apology. I am pleased—to again use the words of the Chief Minister today—in the spirit of that original apology, to restate that apology here today. To Indigenous people in my community, in Canberra and across Australia. I apologise for the impact that this has had on their families; I am sorry for the impact that this has had on their families. To reflect the words of the Leader of the Opposition, I seek the forgiveness of the Indigenous community so that we together will be able to bring about true reconciliation and a true improvement in the life and the lot of our Indigenous brothers.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.22): I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of this motion. This is an issue that has caused a great deal of angst amongst the general community and in relation to which we have seen some serious tensions.

Like Dr Foskey, when we received the proposed wording yesterday I was a little surprised that the word “sorry” did not appear. I would have liked to see a resolution that was more collectively inclusive and a resistance to the temptation to identify one side of the politics at the end of the resolution. As Mr Pratt said earlier, whatever resistance there might have been, the Leader of the Opposition spoke yesterday, the leader of the Greens spoke and the Democrats spoke. In the spirit of the occasion, we ought to be doing our best not to turn this into a passing affair in any way; from the sentiments that I have heard today, I am sure that this Assembly will resist that as much as possible.

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