Page 2564 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 6 August 2013

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The form of a welcome to country can be incredibly varied and may include song, dance or speeches in the traditional language or English. An acknowledgement of country can be a short speech or statement at the beginning of the event. My usual words when I acknowledge country in Canberra are: “I acknowledge the traditional custodians, the Ngunnawal people. I respect their continuing culture and cherish their contribution to the life of our city and our region.”

I was concerned during the estimates hearings when Mr Wall asked a question about the cost of welcomes to country. It is appropriate to ask about any government expenditure. My concern was: did he understand the importance of welcome to country? Furthermore, could some in the community interpret this as a dog whistle on race—not that I am suggesting that this was Mr Wall’s intention?

Acknowledging country is very important. Firstly, it is about truth-telling when so many lies have been told in the past. Secondly, it is about respect—respect for the traditional owners and, in the case of welcomes to country, respect from those traditional owners. Thirdly, it is about the future, about what we can learn from the Indigenous knowledge of how to live in this land of rivers, mountains and plains.

The symbolism of this ceremony is about reconciliation, the nation-building task for this century—building a garden of reconciliation where there is goodness for all Australians to enjoy. We have already had a taste of that fruit. Remember the 2000 Olympics, with Cathy Freeman winning gold in the 400 metres? Remember the sense of joy, of national pride? Remember the feeling of release and righteousness which followed the 2008 apology to the stolen generations by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd?

It is in this garden of reconciliation that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders will find sweet balm to heal the pain and anger of dispossession and discrimination. It is in the garden of reconciliation that non-Indigenous Australians will find ease for their shame and embarrassment at the taking of another’s country, a garden where non-Indigenous Australians will have 40,000 years of Indigenous culture as part of their Australian identity, a garden that can sustain and feed us forever.

Schools—Weetangera Primary

Schools—Rosary Primary

MR DOSZPOT (Molonglo) (5.16): I would like to talk tonight about two school celebrations, one celebrating its 40th birthday and one celebrating its half-century in education. As shadow minister for education I had the pleasure of visiting earlier this year Weetangera Primary School with the Speaker, Mrs Dunne, as their school community was celebrating 40 years of delivering education to many Canberra families in the Weetangera area. The first school was built in 1875 and lasted until 1937. In celebration, a tree planting was held on the old site, which is about a kilometre away from the new school site.

The current Weetangera Primary School opened in 1973 with an initial enrolment of 384 students. It was one of the first two open-plan schools to be built in the ACT and thus the subject of great interest and much debate as new parents were sceptical of this

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