Page 4865 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 1 November 2017

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Malcolm Turnbull has now lost the trust of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In contrast with the Prime Minister, Bill Shorten said last week:

At no stage in this process have I believed that those matters are beyond us. Indeed, I made it clear … I was of the view we could get it done, if only we had the will.

Clearly Mr Turnbull does not have the will, the vision or the capacity to lead his own party, let alone the nation. He has refused to try to find a bipartisan position to take to the people. He has refused to believe that we could take the people with us in the cause of fairness, just as happened in 1967. He has blithely disregarded 10 years of discussion and consultation. Yet again, he has squibbed it.

For my part, I recognise that governments at all levels need to do a better job of listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who are the experts in their own lives and who have the answers to many of the challenges facing their communities. The ACT has some experience with a representative voice to parliament. The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body has been in place since 2008. The ACT remains the only jurisdiction in Australia to have such a democratically elected office, although I am pleased to note that my Victorian Labor colleagues are working to establish a representative body. The purpose of the elected body is to be a voice for the community and to hold the government to account.

In that context, I note the proposals put forward by my predecessor, Dr Bourke, on RiotACT yesterday, about how we may wish to change and improve the hearings process for the elected body. I have put those proposals to the elected body for their advice, recognising that self-determination is all-important here. Contrary to the Prime Minister’s disingenuous arguments, the elected body has not become an extra chamber of this parliament and there has never been any danger of that. This is a total furphy, and I am sure he knows it.

Madam Speaker, some say we are back to square one when it comes to the meaningful recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I hope that is not the case. The Uluru statement came from the hearts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, gathered together in one of the largest and most representative forums of Australia’s first nations people in modern times. Their work and their goodwill cannot and should not be squandered.

Clontarf Foundation

MR MILLIGAN (Yerrabi) (5.42): I would like all members to imagine walking into a room with several young males aged from 13 to 17, each of them walking up to you, shaking your hand and introducing himself to you in a clear voice and engaging with you in conversation about his passions and interests. You might be forgiven for thinking you were at a high end private school somewhere here in the ACT. But I was not; I was visiting Mount Austin High School in Wagga, at the invitation of the Clontarf Foundation, meeting with the staff, students and enthusiastic school principal, Susan Lockwood.

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