Tuesday 12 June 2018
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Thank you, Mr President. Of course, it is an oh-so-slow process, but optimists like me see the almost imperceptible progress in achieving reconciliation between the longstanding Indigenous community and relatively recent settlers.
The brilliant Uluru declaration has been put into the too hard basket by the federal coalition government, but it is here to stay and is likely to be the future basis for meaningful reconciliation. The process takes small steps. At the moment we are having a debate about 'nipaluna', a name suggested by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre - TAC - to be shared with the name of Hobart. Lord Mayor Ron Christie is prepared to embrace the community discussion. You might remember I tried to change the name of my electorate from Rosevears to kanamaluka in March 2017 - a move quashed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre at the very last minute.
kanamaluka is a palawa kani word for the Tamar Estuary, but my move became a pawn in a political campaign by the TAC. As Archie Roach sang more than 30 years ago, 'Out of little things big things grow.'
The Northern Territory Government is endorsing a treaty and some other states are approaching a similar outcome. While the federal government is dragging its feet, Labor Leader Bill Shorten says he wants a referendum on a treaty. For the life of me, I cannot see why or what is holding back the Turnbull Government. As you are no doubt aware, we marked National Reconciliation Week earlier this month. I attended a couple of events, one of which was at the University of Tasmania Stadium, the AFL reconciliation Indigenous round. The game was a tribute to Sir Douglas Nicholls, an Aboriginal player who stood at just five foot two. He played fantastic football for Fitzroy, 54 games. I quote his grandson, Jason Tamiru, reflecting on his grandfather -
What grandfather said is, 'To get a tune out of the piano, you can play the black notes, and you can play the white notes. But to get harmony, you've got to play both.'
I also went to an event in Launceston held by Reconciliation Tasmania. The lead speaker was Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner from 2009 to 2016. Mick Gooda was an inspiring speaker. He has long argued that there needs to be a deeper and stronger relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the rest of the population. He pointed out that relationships are built on understanding, dialogue, tolerance, acceptance, respect, trust and reciprocated affection. He said that anything is possible when we have respectful, meaningful relationships. I will quote the first words of his speech ‑ you were there, member for Windermere - he was very good -
My Aboriginal brothers and sisters, my non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters, thank you for coming.
That says a lot, setting a good tone for his speech. He said the National Apology in February 2008 was an opportunity to move reconciliation forward, but somehow the momentum was lost. There are many reasons for this. Some stem from the treatment of Aboriginal people who bore the brunt of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response - 'the Intervention' - and the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. Mick Gooda said this triggered in Aboriginal peoples' collective memory reminders of all the past injustices they experienced in their communities and families. The theme for this year's Reconciliation Week was 'Don't Keep History a Mystery'. In his speech, Mick said -
This is a part of what we now need to move forward, a process of truth telling. Because in my opinion, there cannot be real reconciliation until there is an acknowledgment of our past, including the good, the bad and the ugly. Unlike some other people on my side of the equation I am not going to get stuck on semantics of whether we were colonised, invaded or settled. All I know is that around 230 years ago an event happened in Australia that changed all of our lives forever. There were brutalities, there were killings and there were reprisals.
In the early 1800s many Aboriginal people were killed and injured at the Risdon Cove massacre. 1824 marked the beginning of a six-year war against Aboriginal people who resisted their lands being taken and women and children being abducted.
Mick Gooda seals his argument about the importance of confronting history and the reconciliation process by quoting Aboriginal leader John Kristoffersen , who argued we should not think of loss as part of reconciliation -
Don't think about losing 200 years of your history; think about sharing 60,000 years of our history.
We are moving far too slowly towards reconciliation, but out of little things big things grow.