Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 14 September 2017) . . Page.. 3724 ..
work on that day. That can unnecessarily add a great challenge and a difficulty to families in differentiating the timing of public holidays across the border.
I would also like to reflect on one of the many conversations I had during my term as the shadow minister for Indigenous affairs last term. One in particular was with Kim Davison from Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation, who said to me, “We are a community in crisis. We do not need discussion about public holidays, and how will a renamed public holiday help my people, who are, at the moment, in crisis?” The lack of outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the ACT can be seen quite clearly. I do not believe there is anything to be celebrated. Whilst the merit of the public holiday is understood, the question remains: how will a public holiday help address Indigenous disadvantage in our community?
I remain of the firm view that things must change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT. As I have said previously, if we cannot get things right here in the ACT, what hope does the whole country have? I know that my colleague Mr Milligan will speak briefly and touch on some of these issues, and I recognise the significant work that he and his office continue to do to highlight the issues and the disadvantage that continues to exist in our Indigenous community in the ACT.
The overly high representation in a lot of the negative statistics warrants serious action, and action as a priority. Renaming a public holiday will most definitely not be this action. However, I reiterate that the opposition is supportive of the intent of this bill, and there is no doubt that a day of acknowledging the history and having an opportunity to reflect on where we have come from and where we are heading is a good thing for the ACT.
MR MILLIGAN (Yerrabi) (11.27): I thank the minister for bringing forward this bill. I want to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of reconciliation not only for Indigenous people but also for Australia. We welcome the symbolic act of the day, which will fall at the beginning of Reconciliation Week. This year’s reconciliation week’s theme was “Remember”. It called on Australians to remember the two significant milestones in our reconciliation journey: first, the 25th anniversary of the Mabo High Court decision; and, second, and probably more importantly, the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, a move begun under the Menzies government but completed by Holt. This significant moment, when more than 90 per cent of Australians voted yes in a referendum, allowed first Australians to be counted for constitutional purposes. It provided the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with a symbol of recognition and it began our nation’s reconciliation journey.
Reconciliation is important. True reconciliation means ensuring that the diversity and distinctiveness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their cultures and perspectives are fairly represented. National Reconciliation Week and, of course, NAIDOC, provide all Australians with the opportunity to engage with Indigenous cultures. And we know that Australians are interested. In the recent Australian reconciliation barometer, most Australians stated that they believed in reconciliation. Ninety-seven per cent said they believed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are important to Australia’s identity.