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12 March 1991 - Current

Address by Aboriginal community members
Page 875
28 March 2018
ASSEMBLY Address by Aboriginal community members MATTHEW GUY

Mr GUY (Leader of the Opposition) (12:43:21) — Can I welcome all of our invited representatives and guests who are here in the Legislative Assembly today.

All of us here recognise our state's significant Aboriginal history and culture dating back tens of thousands of years. Aboriginal culture is the oldest continuous one on earth. It is a history that we should always observe and recognise. I acknowledge that here today we are having this discussion on the lands of the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin nations, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present.

The very site where we meet today here in Parliament House has a rich Indigenous history. Eastern Hill, or Parliament Hill as it became known, was a gum and wattle forest. This site was a traditional Kulin meeting place for gatherings and ceremonial purposes, including corroborees. In fact our own Parliament history tells of an eyewitness account of a corroboree here in 1836. So this spot where we meet today has been one where decisions, discussions and even debates have been held for many centuries. That we continue this tradition today is an honourable one and one that we should educate generations about today and reflect on when we meet here.

It is to be acknowledged that European settlement caused catastrophic outcomes for our Indigenous communities. It included introduced diseases that claimed thousands of lives, violence, removal of people from their lands, removal of children from their homes, and the introduction of pest species into our landscape.

As has been said, while we cannot change the events of the past, we should recognise and acknowledge, and understand, the upheavals caused to our Indigenous communities in the past and their effects that still linger today. While since settlement we have developed a diverse community here in Victoria, our Indigenous history is something we should be truly proud of and something we should continually recognise.

Further, our nation needs to continually work with our Aboriginal peoples to improve outcomes in a range of areas, including health, education and employment outcomes, to name just a few. The Closing the Gap report that is tabled annually in this Parliament as a measure of closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in a range of areas continues to show missed results. Gains are being made in certain areas, while others do need more attention and focus. It is a constant challenge for both government and our communities to work on achieving improved outcomes in the best interests, and with good faith, of our traditional owners.

In the past this side of the Parliament, the Liberal and National parties, have sought to have a genuine and positive relationship with our Indigenous communities. We sought in the past, as we seek now and into the future, to have constructive and positive relations for the advancement of all people, not in the name of politics but in the name of genuine healing, dialogue and partnership.

When the member for Box Hill was the Attorney-General he worked towards the further implementation of the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010. He also gave strong support to the Koori Court process and the tactful and positive ways it managed sensitive issues within Indigenous communities that only Indigenous communities could manage. Mary Wooldridge in the Council implemented the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People to protect their health and safety in ways that had never been done before. That initiative has made huge strides in advancing the health and wellbeing of so many Koori kids and their families.

I also want to place on record the growing number of younger people in our Indigenous communities who are now providing valuable leadership in Indigenous communities today, particularly leadership from within that is working hard on the prevention of family violence throughout Aboriginal communities.

We seek a constructive partnership going forward for our Indigenous communities, again, not in the name of politics but in the name of genuine healing and partnership. Indigenous Australians still face much worse health, educational and social outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians. It is a fact that none of us can ignore and all of us need to recommit to ending and addressing.

Much of the details of the process the government seek to follow we will look at and we will reflect upon. Some of this obviously is new to me today as I have seen this bill for the first time just a few minutes ago. However, I welcome the chance over coming months to personally meet with many of our Indigenous elders and community leaders.

The journey for many of your families and your peoples has no doubt been a hard one for the past 200 years or so. I believe there is a genuine feeling today by all that we seek a better way forward, a way forward that has real results for all Indigenous communities, not just in social, health or educational outcomes but also a result that attains real justice.

Today Australia is a proud, modern nation. We have led the world in so many different fields. The treatment and self-determination of our Indigenous communities is not one of those big ticks. It is an area where we need to do much better. Whatever comes, I hope that today is more than just added words to a story since colonisation that is already long enough. For the sake of our Indigenous communities, I hope that attaining true justice is more than signatures on a piece of paper, but has meaningful results for the health, wellbeing, opportunities, hopes and dreams and self-determination of every Aboriginal man, woman and child in our state and in our country.