Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 31, 2022


National Reconciliation Week

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:01): My question is to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the minister inform the council about the importance of National Reconciliation Week?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:01): I thank the honourable member for the question. I know the honourable member is and has spent much time before as a member and indeed the Chair of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee and takes a great interest in these areas.

As the chamber might be aware, we are currently in the middle of National Reconciliation Week, which began on 27 May and ends on 3 June. This year's theme is 'Be Brave, Make Change', a call to action for Australians to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation. Importantly, this call is aimed at all of us. It is a recognition that individuals, organisations, communities and governments all have a role to take action and advance the work of reconciliation. There is much work to be done on that and Reconciliation Week highlights the opportunities to make further advancement.

We must be brave, as this week's theme suggests, and make that change. I am pleased to be part of a government that is committed to making that change, as I have outlined previously in this place. Reconciliation Week is also a reflection on the changes that have already been made in society. The start of Reconciliation Week each year is 27 May, which is the anniversary of the successful 1967 referendum, which saw Australians vote overwhelmingly—in fact, over 90 per cent of Australians voted in favour and in support of Aboriginal people being recognised in the census and to allow the commonwealth parliament to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The end date of National Reconciliation Week each year is 3 June, being the anniversary of the High Court's decision in the Mabo case, which was in 1992, exactly 30 years ago in a few days (on Friday). That case successfully challenged the idea of terra nullius, the idea that this land was owned by no-one before European colonisation. Reconciliation Week began in 1993 as a week of prayer for reconciliation before formally being launched as Reconciliation Week in 1996.

Those of us who are old enough to remember, in the year 2000 more than a quarter of a million people walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of the Walk for Reconciliation in a very strong display of support for this movement. Since then, there has been an annual opportunity for all of us to reflect on the work of reconciliation and commit to the next steps.

I want to particularly acknowledge all of those honourable members from this chamber, and indeed our colleagues in the other place, who have been out and about this week at reconciliation events in their local community, in the city and in the regions. I thank you all for giving your time to this important work and I encourage us all to do what we can to promote the cause of reconciliation.