Page 803 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 1 April 2008
since I have been in the Assembly. He was a wonderful representative of our Indigenous community—a native of the area and a man who strove tirelessly for justice. I also had the honour of assisting him with the publication of a book in the Ngunnawal language. It was a magnificent children’s book with fantastic illustrations and it went out to all schools in the ACT. Don and Ruth Bell were the driving forces behind that. I will remember Don Bell for many, many things, but that is something which is a lasting tribute to him, amongst others. It is a very fitting one because of his love for his own people and his desire for the legends of the Ngunnawal people to be continued, and continued in a written form. The book is written in Ngunnawal with English translations, and I will always remember that. I will remember his warmth, his friendship and his straightforwardness. It was a particularly sad day when I heard of his passing, and I send my deepest sympathy to his widow, Ruth. Don and Ruth became very good friends of mine over the course of my time in the Assembly. I think it is right that we honour him today.
I also want to speak briefly about an excellent rally—the national remembrance day rally for the Ukrainian community, held on 8 March, to commemorate Holodomor. This was the manmade Stalinist famine in the Ukraine. 1932 to 1933 was a very dark period for the people of the Ukraine. In an act of genocide perpetrated by the then Soviet Communist regime, some seven million people died from starvation in a region that should have provided bountifully. In fact, it was the bread basket of Europe. It is a period that is remembered by Ukrainians as the Holodomor.
The Ukraine was considered to be the Soviet Union’s bread basket—an agricultural area extending back to ancient times. But in 1932-33 it was a land of famine, death, military suppression and government control. There was a deliberate attempt to kill the Kulaks especially, but in the end between seven and 10 million people were killed.
The famine mostly affected the rural population. It was not the first time that famine had struck, and it would not be the last. There had been drought induced famines earlier, in 1921 and 1922, and it would occur again in 1947. But the 1932-33 famine was a manmade famine. It was made by Joseph Stalin particularly to crush the Ukrainian independent spirit and to crush the Kulaks. Within a few months, the Ukrainian countryside, one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the world, was the scene of a general famine. Twenty to 25 per cent of the population of the Ukraine perished under a Stalinist regime—a regime that was hell-bent on crushing the Ukraine’s aspirations as an independent state.
On 8 March, the local Ukrainian community, and many who came in from Sydney and Melbourne, paused to remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the Stalinist regime. The Ukraine now has about 48 million people. It is one of the few countries in the world where the population has not risen much in the last 50 or so years. That is because of the famine and also because of the way the country suffered in World War II. But the famine was particularly horrendous. Children were deliberately left to die. Villages were sealed off. The NKVD went in and took all the crops and then sealed off the villages so that no-one could possibly help the villagers until they perished.
It was a day on which we remembered the children whose innocence was corrupted. The women, the children, the elderly and the young suffered monumentally. We