Page 342 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 14 February 2017
continuing former Minister Bourke’s work towards a Reconciliation Day public holiday next year. I will have more to say about this soon but it is something I am keen to get settled, and I commend the previous minister for his commitment to this.
Over recent weeks we have seen a renewal of debate over the date Australians should celebrate our national day, Australia Day. As we all know, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people consider the date the First Fleet established itself in Sydney Cove as invasion day or survival day. As such, January 26 is not a day of celebration but rather one of sorrow. Many non-Indigenous Australians also find it impossible to celebrate on 26 January, however much they may feel pride in Australia generally, knowing that the first Australians are excluded.
Although it appears to have gained momentum this year, this change of the date debate is not a new one. In 2000 the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, in winding up its work and presenting the national strategy to sustain the reconciliation process, urged governments, organisations and communities to promote symbols of reconciliation and stated:
This would include changing the date of Australia Day to a date that includes all Australians.
The Chief Minister recently proposed that we should change the date when we become a republic. I agree that we should be celebrating our own republic day sooner rather than later but maybe we could do things back to front. How about we pick a date that suits us all for a national celebration, move Australia Day to that date and then make sure we become a republic on that date? Unfortunately the commonwealth government does not seem much interested in engaging in this debate. In the case of the Deputy Prime Minister, name calling seems to be more the order of the day. But we in the ACT government believe that it is a discussion the nation should be having.
This brings me to another important national discussion. Australia is the only commonwealth country that does not have a treaty with its Indigenous people. Some jurisdictions are however taking action. In 2016 both the South Australian and Victorian governments announced that they would enter into treaty discussions with the local Aboriginal people. The Northern Territory has also included treaty discussions as a priority for 2017.
Here in the ACT we actively acknowledge and promote the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is reflected in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agreement of 2015-18 and in the Human Rights Act. A national treaty would recognise Aboriginal people’s prior history and prior occupation of the land, as well as the injustices many have endured. It would offer a platform for addressing those injustices and help to establish a path forward based on mutual goals. Next week I will be meeting with a number of my state, territory and federal Labor counterparts to talk about the path forward, and I am keen to hear from them about how their discussions are progressing.
My speech here today focused on the government’s role in committing to promoting and acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their