Page 2755 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013

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As Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, I recognise that closing the gap is a generational target but I am confident that this resource will help guide ACT service delivery in the right direction. I move:

That the Assembly takes note of the paper.

Debate (on motion by Mr Wall) adjourned.

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra), by leave: I thank Mr Rattenbury for tabling the latest close the gap report, which is an important accountability measure. I welcome his genuine commitment to advancing the interests of Canberra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. This year we celebrated the fifth anniversary since the new Federal Labor government under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the long-awaited apology to the stolen generations for the forced removal of Indigenous children. It was a profound and cathartic moment for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and for the nation.

I mention it now for two reasons. Firstly, it was a defining moment for our country and Indigenous affairs. The apology was one of the first items of business for the new Labor government. Secondly, it shows the importance of reconciliation and working with the Indigenous communities to achieve change. That same year in Yirrkala, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, representing the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land, presented Prime Minister Rudd with a bark petition calling for recognition of Australia’s first people in the Australian Constitution, a call I think all here support.

That bark petition recalled the bark petitions the Yolngu presented to the Australian parliament fifty years ago, which we commemorate this month. These bark petitions were a call for recognition, respect and control of their future, the salient points of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The work to close the gap contributes to the ongoing work of reconciliation. Closing the gap it is not an end in itself and achieving it is not an end to the need for ongoing reconciliation. As I said in my inaugural speech in this Assembly, reconciliation will be the nation-building task of this century, a nation building that redefines what is Australia and what it means to be Australian. It is nation building that is about respect for our common humanity, respect for our fellow human beings and what we all bring to our community.

I was an active member of the steering committee for the grassroots close-the-gap campaign from 2007. I value the strides we are making here in the ACT and Australia to close the gap in life expectancy but also in the social determinants of health, education, employment and housing to build more opportunities for a long, productive, fulfilling and valued life.

That said, the latest ACT closing the gap report published a few weeks ago marks continuing progress in many areas. The report includes an introduction from Rod Little, the chair of the ACT’s groundbreaking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body. Mr Little particularly mentions the value of the estimates-type hearing

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