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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 14 September 2017) . . Page.. 3728 ..

The bill that we are debating in this chamber today is another step towards achieving reconciliation. The 1967 referendum showed us the impetus each of these steps can have on our path towards equality. While much had been achieved until that point in time, it is the day itself that is recognised as a turning point, embodying the wishes of Australians for Indigenous equality.

The step we take together today as a city and territory in adopting this public holiday is one of national significance. It is one that captures the spirit of the yes vote, which called on Australians to “show the world the true Australian brotherhood”. It is one that unites us, not just with the Ngunnawal, Ngarigo and Ngambri people, but with all Australians of all backgrounds. It is one that does our two swans, black and white, side by side, proud; symbolising the willingness of Canberrans to share both our history and our future with the Indigenous people of our region. I call on all members of this Assembly to stand together in unity with our Indigenous community and vote in favour of this bill.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations) (11.40), in reply: When I presented this bill, I outlined outcomes of community consultations regarding a Reconciliation Day public holiday in 2018. As Mr Wall and Mr Rattenbury have done, I want to acknowledge the contribution of Dr Chris Bourke, the former minister, for undertaking those consultations and championing the new public holiday.

The community agreed that the day needed to have a logical and relevant link to a date of cultural or historical significance. The date put forward in this bill will see the ACT’s Reconciliation Day held on the first Monday on or after 27 May, the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and the first day of National Reconciliation Week.

I am particularly pleased that the bill will have tripartisan support in this place. I acknowledge the issues raised by Mr Wall and Mr Rattenbury around the need to balance public holidays at different times of the year. Mr Wall rightly outlined the complexities involved in this issue.

Passage of this legislation will be both a symbolic and practical demonstration of our territory’s commitment to reconciliation. Reconciliation is about developing a better relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians and repairing damage to the ancient culture that lives on in this land that we all call home.

Australia is often referred to as a young country, but we live on the oldest continent on earth; a continent that is home to the oldest living culture on earth, the culture of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, which is more than 60,000 years in the making. If Aboriginal culture were 24 hours old then the First Fleet arrived just five minutes and four seconds ago. We have an incredible opportunity and an important responsibility to recognise, understand, protect and respect its ancient sites, diverse customs, languages and peoples.

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