Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 14 February 2008) . . Page.. 239 ..
I appeal to my colleagues—I know it is an appeal that will not find any resistance—that, as we go forward, even in this community of Canberra, we must start looking at substantial and genuine ways to improve life expectancy and help the communities and families that have suffered this stress—whether it is from the afflictions of alcohol, drug abuse or violence—and ensure that we bring the Aboriginal community in Australia into a position where they can enjoy all of the things that every other Australian is entitled to enjoy and are able to do that with respect, without discrimination and without hostility, knowing that they are fully embraced and accepted into the Australian community.
I am pleased to support this motion.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.32): In the introduction to the Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, chairman of the Northern Land Council, wrote:
For too long we have only had a non-Aboriginal perspective on history, but now we are getting another view … Now with the Encyclopaedia all Australians and people all over the world can find out about things that have been hidden.
And it is this nature of things that were hidden that I refer to. When the Chief Minister refers to the Bringing them home report, what he refers to is an opening up of knowledge for all Australians to understand what had happened in their country—and many of us had no idea—and if they remain hidden like an infection or a wound, they fester. And to heal a festering wound you must draw the poison because you cannot have complete and true healing if something remains in that wound. I think yesterday was not symbolic. I think yesterday was an incredibly important stepping stone in a path to true healing, and I hope that healing began yesterday.
In this place it began 10 years ago. I congratulate all members of the Assembly 10 years ago when they said, on behalf of the people of the ACT, “We are sorry. We acknowledge what happened.” The fact that it occurred so quickly after the Bringing them home report was tabled says that they understood then that it is not a symbol, that it is real and that, without it, healing and, indeed, forgiveness cannot occur.
When I got home last night my wife, Robyn, was sitting on the couch and we watched the highlights of the news for the day. At 7 o’clock, when she was feeding our baby, the story came on and some of the women were telling of how their babies were ripped from them, and she said, “You cannot imagine it. I cannot imagine someone coming into my house, my abode, and taking my child.” I do not think any of us can imagine at all the emotional and psychological damage that was done.
Following on from that, in a personal way, I would like to say sorry that, probably for half my life, I did not know; and I am sorry that I did not ask; and I am sorry that I did not find out. For me, a real turning point in my life was a book by Geoffrey Blayney called Triumph of the nomads. Here is an eminent Australian historian saying these people were triumphant, and he outlines the way in which they triumphed over their environment, over adversity, over what they did not have, to form a culture that, as many here have said, has perhaps been going for as long as 60,000 years, if not longer.