Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 14 September 2017) . . Page.. 3726 ..
three per cent—or, aspirationally, perhaps more. Let us demonstrate a true commitment to reconciliation by achieving this goal.
We must make sure that the proposed Reconciliation Day is to be more than just a symbol, just another day off, one amongst nine public holidays in the first half of the year. It must be more than just a day for a barbecue, going to the coast or having a sleep-in. If the day is to achieve its stated purpose then the government must do something. What will they do to promote the first nations’ culture and identity amongst non-Indigenous Australians? Will they put on additional cultural events? Will they begin with an educational program? Will they provide financial stimuli to help celebrate the day? Will they support Indigenous artists through additional arts funding, or support Indigenous musicians through a sponsored music event?
It needs to be more than a day off, otherwise there is little point in going to all of this effort. It will remain nothing more than a nod to reconciliation, a symbolic, empty, meaningless gesture amongst the many this government is very good at making. I am very keen about the opportunities that Reconciliation Day brings, but I am also sceptical about the reasons behind introducing this public holiday, and I will remain sceptical if we do not see this government making some very real moves towards achieving or honouring reconciliation. Reconciliation starts by building relationships, gaining respect and building trust. Full reconciliation can only be realised when equality and equity are finally achieved. Let us start with a day but work together to finish with real transformation in the lives of Indigenous Canberrans.
MS ORR (Yerrabi) (11.34): 2017 is an important year of reflection for all Australians. It marks 50 years since the successful 1967 referendum on the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act. The referendum brought two changes to the constitution which introduced the inclusion of the Indigenous population in the national census official population figures and removed an exemption that prevented federal parliament from making laws in relation to Indigenous people.
It is important to recognise the significance of these changes. Prior to this referendum, Indigenous people had not been counted in our population determinations. According to political historian Scott Bennett, this was due to two widely held beliefs. The first was that Indigenous people were dying out and would soon cease to be a consideration, and the second was captured by Tasmanian MP King O’Malley when he said of the Indigenous people, “There is no scientific evidence that he is a human being at all.”
The outcome of the referendum was a resounding yes, with 90.8 per cent of Australian electors voting for change. In a country where only eight of 44 referenda have been carried, the strength of this victory cannot be lost. So powerful was the sentiment for these changes, there was no preparation of the case opposing them.
1967 marked a change in the way our nation viewed Indigenous people. While significant, the 1967 referendum was not an end in itself but a means to an end yet to be achieved. Even before the successful yes vote, an editorial in the Daily Mirror captured this reality perfectly. It stated: