Page 501 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013
We are now five years on from the apology, one of the most important moments in Australia’s movement towards reconciliation. Today there will be a celebration of this anniversary on the lawns of Parliament House. More than just a celebration, however, there will be a sense of reflection and consideration on how far we have come and recognition of the work we need to do together in government and in our own lives to ensure that our journey continues.
I am personally looking forward to attending this evening’s concert and hearing a legend of the Australian music scene, Archie Roach, perform. I am also looking forward to seeing other great acts like Dan Sultan playing here in Canberra during the centenary year, when the people can truly look to Canberra and Parliament House and say, “There is an example of when politicians came together to get something right.”
I would like to encourage other members in the chamber, and in fact all Canberrans, to head up to Parliament House this evening for the concert, to have a great night, to celebrate, and also to show their support for the intent of the apology. As the organiser of the event has said, these celebrations will involve people from across Australia sharing the progress of their own healing journeys, and I wholeheartedly support that.
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education), by leave: I also rise to acknowledge the fifth anniversary today of one of the most significant addresses in our nation’s social and political history delivered in federal parliament by the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. On this day five years ago, the national apology to the stolen generations went beyond symbolism. It pledged a new beginning in Indigenous policy. The closing the gap policy commitment immediately followed the apology.
The then Prime Minister said in his now famous speech for the stolen generations:
The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving with confidence to the future.
I recall that five years ago Aboriginal leaders who gathered here in our city to listen to the Prime Minister apologise on behalf of every Australian reacted with joy and with relief at the very long-overdue event. I think the event had special significance for Aboriginal women and allowed many of them to begin their healing process.
It was a genuine acknowledgement of the pain and the grief suffered by many separated, not only from their families, but so often from their culture and their language. The apology did more than confront the wrongs of the past. It inspired optimism for a better future.
It was effective because it joined the then Prime Minister’s personal commitment with a political and institutional commitment to future action. The former Prime Minister pledged to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage with a suite of measures to alleviate disadvantage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. His speech bequeathed a bipartisan policy commitment driven in partnership with the states and territories and the federal government to focus on improvements in education, in health and in employment. Today progress is monitored and measured.