Page 246 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.57): It is a great honour to join with all other Assembly members in support of this motion. I think a new era has dawned in Australian society as a result of yesterday and I think it is important that we all join together and move forward from this point.

I echo the comments of Mr Smyth and Dr Foskey on two very important aspects that have been raised in this debate. One is that as a society we can extend empathy, friendship and inclusion without detracting at all from any other people within our society. I hope that what the federal parliament began yesterday will be a new era of inclusion in Australian society; that people who have been at the margins of our society will be brought into the mainstream and will be considered fully part of the Australian community. What the federal parliament started yesterday is something that we should see through all aspects of Australian life: extending the hand of friendship, of inclusion, of welcome, is something that can be done without causing grief to others.

Mr Smyth is spot on, though, in his point—and the Chief Minister raised it in his speech—about the importance of education. That is certainly not lost on me as education minister for the ACT. Whilst the ACT has performed well, there is still a long way for this territory to go in bridging the gap in education performance between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, and we will continue to work with Indigenous communities to ensure that that gap is bridged. The support of the federal government in achieving that will be significant and we look forward to working cooperatively in our community to ensure that we play our part in bridging the gap.

I believe what we have seen today in this chamber and yesterday in the federal parliament is the best of Australian society and what we can offer collectively to improve the lot of all people in Australia. It warms the heart to see just what can be achieved and I look forward to working with all those in this chamber and with our federal colleagues to ensure that, in the areas of education in particular, we are able to make a significant difference here in the ACT. On behalf of my family, I say sorry, and I join with everyone here in acknowledging the importance of yesterday’s apology. I thank members for what has been a magnificent debate this morning.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (12.00): I will just rise briefly. I think it is wonderful when the Assembly works like this and we have people from all across the political spectrum coming together. It is a rare event in the Assembly but it is always lovely when you see it.

It was also nice yesterday to see an event that stopped the nation and that was not a sporting event, for once. It was a truly humbling experience to look at the TV footage and the reports today of people coming together and huddling around a TV set or going to events everywhere across Australia, and, of course, the huge events here in Canberra, to watch what was truly a remarkable point in our history.

My daughter, and I imagine many children across Canberra, watched this at her school and understood—at a much younger age than I did, following on from what Mr Smyth said this morning—what happened as part of the history of our country. To

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