Page 5062 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 17 November 2009

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Everyone has a right to a safe and happy childhood and the right to a safe home, and we are keeping children as safe as possible by supporting families. We are working hard to protect our most vulnerable and we are building resilient and caring communities who take collective responsibility for children and young people. As we look to the future, we will not forget the past. We will never forget the injustices that have been experienced, and we are working to make sure we protect our most vulnerable.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (10.29): It is probably well known that I come from a big family. I have nine brothers and sisters, and I could not imagine not having any of them. To have nothing after the government that was there to protect you had stripped you away from your family must leave immense scars on the psyche of people. I think it is a great step forward as a nation to see the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition stand together, both with clear emotion and immense meaning in their words, and deliver the apology to these people who were taken from their loved ones, whether it be in circumstances of war or whether it be in circumstances of peace.

Very much in terms of the national psyche, if we are to be unified, if we are to be one nation, it is important that, when we find the mistakes of the past, we make a meaningful admission that they were wrong and worthy of an apology and then get on with the job of looking after people. That is a good thing. I thank the Chief Minister for putting forward this motion today. I thank the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, for their leadership yesterday.

I think it should be remembered that a large amount of this work was, in fact, started by the Democrats’ Andrew Murray. Mr Murray should not be forgotten for the work that he did through the inquiry, because he lived through that personal experience where he was sent by the British government to Zimbabwe as an orphan. He clearly knows from first-hand experience the impact of that.

I think it is great that today we have in the gallery Patrick, who, as a member of our local community, also suffered. Patrick’s story was written up in the Canberra Times on Monday. He was sent on one of the first boats from London after the war, supposedly as a war orphan. It is great that many years later he was able to meet his mother and catch up and renew those things. It is important that we know who we are. For Patrick, who is well known in Irish circles in the ACT, to be able to wear that green tie with the harp on it is particularly important, having found his Irish roots. We need to know where we come from. If we do not know where we have been, it is very hard to know where we are going.

The question is: what do we do now? I notice that the Prime Minister has put forward a range of programs, and I look forward to those programs being put in place. In particular, I think it is important that the stories are told. I note that displays will be put in the National Library and the National Museum, and I hope people do come and see them and actually understand the impact of what was done to these poor children. I look at my three-year-old son David and just think, “How could you hurt a child supposedly for good reasons?” We all know today that they were not good reasons. Things were done to children that should never even be considered as being good for children.

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