Page 502 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Following the apology, the ACT also made changes to the way we approached our relationship with members of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The ACT government initiated and enacted the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body Act 2008 which gave every eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person living in the ACT democratically elected representation and a voice that would be heard by those responsible for designing programs and services that have direct impact on their life outcomes.
The 2013 Closing the gap report released last week shows that progress is mixed but improvements are being made. Child mortality has declined. Positive results are being achieved in employment, education and training. Of course, there are more challenging issues such as violence, alcohol and drug abuse, welfare dependency and reducing the rates of imprisonment, which need to be tackled in partnership with the private and the non-government sectors.
I think in the ACT, when I look at some of the major issues that I would like to continue to work on here for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, they relate to education, smoking cessation and to the justice system and particularly to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
I finish up with just a little reflection on why the apology is so important and will continue to be so important. The apology is played in the National Museum in a room that is designated for the continual playing of the apology. I visited there a few weeks ago with my small children. In fact, one of them was just born when the apology was given. They sat and watched the apology. I think for me that brought home just why it was so important to have it done. You have the next generation of Australians at a very early age understanding and seeing that their leaders have apologised for policies and decisions that have had such serious detrimental impact on our first peoples.
I think that that is probably the lasting legacy of that apology—not only to help heal the first peoples but also to teach the new generations, the younger generations, why what happened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was so wrong.
MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition), by leave: I will be brief because Mr Wall will make further remarks on behalf of the opposition in his role as the shadow minister, but it is important that I, as opposition leader, note the fifth anniversary of the apology.
It certainly was an important day and on behalf of the opposition and the Canberra Liberal Party, I would like to express my acknowledgement of that. We can be very proud here in the ACT that it was this Assembly that actually instigated the first apology to Indigenous people. I think that is something that we can reflect on and be proud of here.
As a number of people have alluded to, the apology is only part of the problem, part of the issue, part of the concern that we have that needs to be addressed in Indigenous issues and we still have a long way to go, both in reconciliation and in closing the gap on issues such as health, education and criminal justice, as others spoke about.