Page 2897 - Week 08 - Thursday, 17 August 2017

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Together, we need to write a better Australian story, which needs to reach into more than 60,000 years of this country’s history and culture and say, “This is what it is to be a contemporary Australian.” Reconciliation needs to be a conversation in Australian society which becomes normal and ongoing. Reconciliation will not end with a single act or gesture, but we have to keep working together. On Reconciliation Day, I hope we will celebrate what we have achieved as well as recognising what we still need to do.

It is important to note that while we are establishing a new Reconciliation Day public holiday, the total number of public holidays will not increase. While adding Reconciliation Day, this bill also removes the Family and Community Day public holiday. The significance of Family and Community Day, its origins and the important role of the union movement will not be lost, however. The government has committed to celebrating these important themes instead on Labour Day, giving the day and its message a far greater emphasis than it has had in recent years.

I would also note the significant role the union movement has played in supporting the ongoing journey to reconciliation. This involvement grew from the union movement’s support for the workers at Wave Hill at the time of the Wave Hill walk-off. This walk-off eventually led to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act recognising Aboriginal people as traditional landowners for the first time in commonwealth legislation, based upon proof of their traditional association with the land. In the spirit of reconciliation, we must understand how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lived on this land for tens of thousands of years, thus creating an ancient connection with the land. Only then can we understand the issues Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples deal with today as a result of being removed from those lands.

In Reconciliation Week 2017 the theme was “Let’s take the next steps”. Establishing a Reconciliation Day public holiday is about Canberra taking the next step. It is envisaged that the day will be celebrated through community events that bring people together to continue the journey of reconciliation. It will also be an opportunity to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage. Importantly, we can explore the contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture makes to contemporary Australia and how we can shape that understanding for our future generations. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are inextricably linked with their land, and the land is a key element in the sustainability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

It is critical to true reconciliation that all Australians hold knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, both as a contemporary society and as a pre-colonisation society. Some people may be starting this journey and others may be well travelled. This is an opportunity for all of us to walk together. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Wall) adjourned to the next sitting.

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