Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


National Reconciliation Week

The Hon. S.G. WADE (15:56): This week is National Reconciliation Week, a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. National Reconciliation Week is held each year between 27 May and 3 June. These two dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey: the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.

The theme of this year is 'Be brave. Make change.' The theme is a call to all Australians to make change through brave actions in their daily lives, where they live, work, play and socialise. It is a call for individuals, families, communities, organisations and governments to be brave, to tackle unfinished business in reconciliation so we can make change for the benefit of all Australians.

As we take the next step on reconciliation in this parliament, I believe it is important to recognise the progress that was made in the last parliament. Premier Steven Marshall was passionate about Aboriginal reconciliation. He was on the board of Reconciliation SA for eight years. He took on the Aboriginal affairs portfolio himself as Premier. Under his passionate leadership, the government had a record of being brave and making change through practical actions which supported the aspirations of Aboriginal people.

By the end of his term as Premier, South Australia had record numbers of Aboriginal students completing SACE, more government contracts going to Aboriginal owned and operated businesses, a record number of Aboriginal employees in the public sector and a record number of Aboriginal trainees and apprentices.

The Marshall team developed whole-of-government Aboriginal affairs action plans. The 2021-22 Aboriginal Affairs Action Plan outlined 41 specific actions, including the Marshall government's commitment to implementing the new Closing the Gap agreement. As a cabinet, we held six-monthly meetings with the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council. No previous South Australian government had done this.

The former Premier arranged for the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement, Dr Roger Thomas, to give an historic address to the parliament, setting out issues and challenges facing Aboriginal communities in South Australia. The Marshall Liberal government funded extensive consultation with Aboriginal people and communities about providing them with a Voice to the Parliament of South Australia, the cabinet, ministers and their agencies through the establishment of an Aboriginal representative body.

The Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People was appointed to assist Aboriginal families and communities to keep children safe in culturally appropriate ways and develop policies and practices that promote the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal children who are over-represented in the child protection system.

The government implemented South Australia's first standalone Aboriginal housing policy, backed by $83 million of state and commonwealth funding. The government provided funding for the opening of a dialysis clinic on the APY lands by the Indigenous owned and run health service, Purple House.

The Marshall government invested more than $9 million to upgrade infrastructure in 15 regional Aboriginal communities, including road repairs, improvements to waste management and community infrastructures. The Marshall Liberal government provided $10 million in funding to extend the participation of Aboriginal men in violence prevention programs. We implemented a groundbreaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework through the Department for Correctional Services, the first of its kind in Australia, to ensure access to programs and services that are responsive to the unique cultural and gendered needs of Aboriginal prisoners.

In partnership with the federal government, we established the Circle—First Nations Entrepreneur Hub at Lot Fourteen to support Aboriginal innovation, entrepreneurship and employment. The Marshall Liberal government also provided $86.5 million for the construction of a purpose-built facility to house South Australia's important cultural artefacts, including the most comprehensive collection of Aboriginal cultural materials in the world.

We provided annual funding totalling $4.03 million in 2020-21 in grants and other support for Aboriginal arts and crafts and funded the expansion of art centres on the APY lands and a gallery and studio in Adelaide. We also funded, with the federal government, a First Nations art and cultural centre now being built at Lot Fourteen, to be opened in 2025, which will be a world-class facility putting Aboriginal cultures at the forefront, driving awareness, understanding and reconciliation.

Reconciliation is a shared responsibility for all of us in this parliament and in our communities. We need to be brave. We need to make change. It is important that, like the Marshall government, we drive practical actions across government and across the community to make real improvements in the lives of Aboriginal South Australians.