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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 14 February 2008) . . Page.. 241 ..

and this is in 1925—

of Old Age Pensions was obtained from our ancient code, as likewise your Child Endowment Scheme and Widows Pensions. Our divorce laws may yet find a place on the Statute Book. The members of this board have also noticed the strenuous efforts of the Trade Union leaders to attain the conditions which existed in our country at the time of the invasion by Europeans—the men only worked when necessary—we called no man “Master” and we had no “King”.”

What we need to do is educate ourselves about what has occurred because, without a full understanding of the past, we cannot build a future together in this country. For the people of the ACT, that commenced 10 years ago, when 17 voices, speaking as one, said sorry. For the nation, it commenced yesterday when the federal parliament, on behalf of the people of Australia, said sorry. I hope that the bipartisan approach continues but my hope is that everything is based on an acknowledgement of the truth and that education is at the heart of the path forward. I commend the Chief Minister for bringing this motion on today. I commend the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I thank you all for the words that you will impart today.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (11.40): I am happy to support the Chief Minister and everyone else in this place on this important motion today. Indeed the Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, is to be commended for the leadership that he demonstrated yesterday by moving a formal apology in the parliament of Australia. No-one could fail to be stirred by this moving moment in our nation’s history when all members of our nation’s parliament were of one voice in uttering the important word.

It has been a long time coming, I am sure members will agree. I heard many people say beforehand that they did not think that they would live to see the day. But the day finally arrived and how magnificent it was to hear that word “sorry”, not once but, as the Chief Minister and others have said, over and over. As this motion says and others have said this morning, this is not an end in itself but it marks the beginning, the beginning of true reconciliation with the Indigenous population of Australia and a significant point in the process of healing for those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people who were victims of those policies which saw the creation of the stolen generations.

I, and my children who grew up in Arnhem Land, are celebrating with the rest of the nation today. However, for me the celebration is tinged with a sense of regret. My regret is that which stems from the fact that I cannot run away from the fact that I worked for and was part of a system that oppressed a people. As I said yesterday, as a young woman, I arrived as a newly graduated nursing sister in Oenpelli in the Northern Territory in the early 1960s. Little did I realise what was awaiting me. I touched on it yesterday when I mentioned that all people, Balanda and Yolngu, were required to speak English and that Aboriginal people were addressed by their English names. In fact, I did not even know the names of the people that I worked with; I did not know that they had Indigenous names in that place.

One of my most vivid memories is that in the morning every young child was brought by their grandmother to a building near the bush hospital where the children were stripped of their clothes by the Indigenous, so-called nursing assistants and put

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