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74

74 SENATE Tuesday, 14 February 2017 powerful moment when Paul Keating made the self-evident yet controversial call to the nation that it was we who did the dispossessing—that this nation was founded on an act of theft, an act of dispossession. It is important that we acknowledge that fact—that it is we, the non-Indigenous people, who have done the killing, the colonising, the discriminating and the dispossessing. That is not a black armband view of history. That is not guilt. That is justice, and that is what this is about. This is about achieving justice. It is so critical that we look at the Redfern Statement, take it seriously and recognise that the emphasis on self-determination, which is an undisputed right in international law, has never been afforded to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country, and it is about time we did something to address that. It is self-evident as to why we need to act. From the moment of the Redfern statement, we have seen report after report—the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report, the Bringing them home report, the State of reconciliation in Australia report and many more—highlighting the failures that reflect the fact that this country is yet to achieve justice when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who first introduced the annual Closing the gap statement, made a profound gesture when he made that apology in the parliament, and I was privileged to be there as an ordinary person in the crowd on the lawns of Parliament House. It was so moving and so powerful. It was important that, for the first time, we put in place measures to judge how much progress we are making when it comes to closing the gap. Yet, as the former Prime Minister himself said only yesterday, he fears another stolen generation. We are seeing child removal rates continuing to increase, and we have seen a succession of government policy that is the antithesis to the statement that was made today to the Prime Minister—the paternalistic intervention into the Northern Territory. We have seen the destruction of community development employment programs, we have seen the undermining of housing policies that assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we have seen half a billion dollars ripped out of Indigenous affairs under this government in the 2014 budget and, of course, we have seen the controversial Indigenous Advancement Strategy, where we are seeing so many Aboriginal people lose out to big government departments, again, with that heavy-handed paternalistic over-the-top response. Well, this is a wake-up call. We do not have the answers. It is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have the solutions. It is tempting for us in this place to think we know best. As I said in my speech this morning, as a young medical graduate—a young GP—walking into an Aboriginal health service, I thought I knew it all. I had read books, I had done a course and I was going to go in there and help fix things. But if there is any one lesson I took out of that experience, it is that you must work with Aboriginal people, listen to their voices and their stories and understand that before you can do anything. Last year I was privileged to attend the celebration, with the Gurindji people, of the famous Wave Hill strike. That was an act of defiance where the Gurindji people walked off the Wave Hill cattle station. They did so against the advice of governments, bureaucrats, policymakers and, indeed, the church. It was a sign that Aboriginal people told us loudly and clearly: we know best for us; don't tell us what to do. It was a significant moment. It was a moment that transformed not just the lives of the Gurindji but also the nation. It took much more hard work and years of advocacy before we saw Gough Whitlam pour the sand into the hands of Vincent Lingiari, which should have signalled the beginning of a new wave, but sadly here we are. There has been limited progress in achieving what is at the heart of the Closing the gap report: justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Prime Minister said last year, 'We need to be making change with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not to them,' and that is exactly what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from across the nation are saying. People from health, justice, violence prevention, disability and children and family sectors are coming together in the Redfern Statement—a statement supported by over 50 Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups across a wide variety of sectors. It is a plan for engagement with government. It is an ambitious plan, but it needs to be ambitious if we are to make progress, and I urge the government and the opposition to support the schedule—the detailed plans—laid out in the Redfern Statement and to recognise that, in doing so, they have the full support of the Australian Greens. In the parliament, we Greens have had a longstanding commitment to collaboration and to respecting the knowledge and wisdom of Aboriginal people and an Aboriginal led approach. My colleague Senator Siewert here is someone who has, for more than a decade in this place, been a proud ally and friend of the many organisations who added their names this morning to the calls for a new way forward. We know what needs to be done. There are so many things that we can do at a practical level—for example, delivering culturally safe high-quality health care in the country. CHAMBER

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 SENATE 75 Let's prioritise getting Aboriginal people the skills, training and experience so that they can contribute to the workforce. From administration to allied health, GPs and obstetricians, we need more Aboriginal people delivering health care. I know this because I have seen it up close. We know that these people are the role models for their communities and that they can demonstrate what is possible and what can be achieved and how people can give back to their communities. I met Kelvin Kong today, an Aboriginal doctor and ear, nose and throat surgeon who understands just how important it is to give young kids opportunities early in life through appropriate interventions when it comes to ear health. When young children cannot hear, they cannot learn language skills. They cannot learn at school. They are behind the eight ball right from the very start. There are simple things that we can do to ensure that we close the gap. In finishing, let me just say that this is an opportunity for a new way forward. It is my great hope that the government and the opposition—indeed, the entire parliament—will take up this challenge. Please note that the Greens will be with you every step of the way. Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (18:38): Today we have heard another series of closing-the-gap speeches much the same as we have heard in previous years—but saying something over and over again does not make it true. A myth we hear regularly is that, in the Prime Minister's words, 'Greater empowerment of local communities will deliver the shared outcomes we all desire.' Government interventions are now more locally managed for Aborigines than for other Australians, and have been for decades, but the outcomes are worse. The more dysfunctional a community, the less qualified they are to shape government policy and direct taxpayer funds. Why should we assume that the victims of violence know how government could help stop the beatings, that sick people know how to run health services or that people without jobs know how they can be helped into jobs? Another myth is that we need to pay deep respect to Aboriginal elders and community leaders. Many Aborigines have pointed out to me that these people are self-appointed, unelected and do not speak for them. They have no track record of improving the lot of Aboriginal people. They have an interest in maintaining existing power relationships and townships, even if this is keeping people in squalor and dependency. Guilt is clouding judgement in this place. Guilt means that opponents of work-for-the-dole schemes, like Labor and the Greens, do nothing to oppose a work-for-the-dole scheme if it is for Aborigines. This scheme is called the Community Development Program, and it exempts Aborigines in dysfunctional remote communities from the usual conditions for receiving the dole provided they remain in these violent, backward communities that are barren of opportunities. Guilt is clouding judgement such that many find it impossible to apportion any blame for high Aboriginal incarceration rates on the Aboriginal offenders. And guilt is clouding judgement such that Aboriginal children in abusive or neglectful situations are being kept there for longer and more often than non- Aboriginal children in abusive or neglectful situations. This guilt is not helping anyone, so let's get over it. Captain Arthur Phillip came. Terrible things were done to some Aborigines who are now dead. Terrible things were done to the ancestors of other Australians too, like Chinese Australians, Armenian Australians and Jewish Australians. It does not help to treat any of these Australians like children. Let's stop telling lopsided stories about ancient Aboriginal culture without mentioning anything barbaric. Let's not double down on a racist Constitution by setting Aborigines apart from the rest of the nation. Let's stop racist policies that deliver extra handouts if a self-appointed elder declares you to be Aboriginal. Let's expect all Australians to obey the law and face punishment if they do not. And let's impose tough welfare obligations on all Australians. To paraphrase some QUT students who were ejected from a computer lab because of the colour of their skin, you do not stop racism with racism. Senator McALLISTER (New South Wales—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (18:42): I commence my remarks by acknowledging that we meet on the traditional lands of the Ngunawal and Ngambri people. I pay my respects to their elders, past and present. I also wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Bundjalung lands, because those are the lands that I grew up on. I want to use my time today—and I will try to keep my remarks brief—to reflect a little bit on what it meant to grow up in a community where the Bundjalung Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people played a very active role. I do so to perhaps place some of the remarks from the former speaker in context, because my memories of the relationships I had with the Aboriginal community and Islander community in northern New South Wales are overwhelmingly positive. I acknowledge that a child's eyes are more innocent than most. As I have grown up I have come to understand that many of those people faced poverty, racism and hardship. But the experience I had was of an enormously resilient community, with all of the strength and capabilities to take charge of their own destinies. CHAMBER

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