Legislative Council: Thursday, September 14, 2023


Country Cabinet

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:01): My question is to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the minister inform the council about events relating to Aboriginal affairs at the country cabinet held in Mount Barker last month?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:01): I thank the honourable member for his question and his interest in this area. Yesterday, I was able to inform the chamber generally about some of the activities that the government and ministers undertook at the recent Mount Barker country cabinet, and I was able to inform the chamber of some of the areas, particularly in my role as Attorney-General, in meeting at the Magistrates Court, meeting legal professionals, justices of the peace and others as part of that visit. I am very pleased to be able to share with the chamber some of the activities undertaken in my role as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs during that country cabinet.

I started my meetings in my Aboriginal affairs area with representatives of the Adelaide Hills Reconciliation Action Group. The group is a joint initiative between the Adelaide Hills Council and the Mount Barker District Council, and was established to develop and implement the reconciliation action plans of both councils and provide advice on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents in the Hills. I am very grateful to councillor Jessica Szilassy, Mayley Willis, Ros Cameron, Jade Brook and Peter McGinn for spending time talking about the work of the group and reconciliation projects and events throughout the Adelaide Hills, things that included:

a First Nations newsletter at Mount Barker High School, which recently won a Parents in Education grant to create a bush tucker garden and fire pit and host Ngarrindjeri language sessions; and

the Wellbeing on Watta cultural group, which hosts sessions on culture, wellbeing and mindfulness, including painting, embroidery, crafting and yarning circles.

I then had the pleasure to visit the Flaxley Uniting Church building and met with David Leach, Mayor of the Mount Barker District Council, as well as members of the Aboriginal community who had been using the church as a community forum through a community group called Woven. Woven has a focus on arts, culture, history and reconciliation and has used this church as a meeting place for Aboriginal people and for hosting cultural events.

While I was there I was able to view some of the local Aboriginal artwork and spend some time with some people who I had met earlier in the day as members of the Reconciliation Action Group, and have a better understanding of the needs of Aboriginal people in the Mount Barker area. A particular highlight was a trip to the summit of Mount Barker and an opportunity to view the very important cultural significance of that to the Peramangk people and the sites around the summit.

Possibly the highlight, not just of my interactions as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs but of any interaction as part of my time at the Mount Barker country cabinet, was visiting a group of Aboriginal high school students from Mount Barker High School and Cornerstone College to talk about what they are doing, what their ambitions are, and my work as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

The students spoke passionately and eloquently about their experience growing up as an Aboriginal person, particularly in the Adelaide Hills, and maintaining a connection to their country and culture. Students spoke about their parents, grandparents and ancestors and their connection to country and their ambition to do the same.

I very much appreciated that visit with the students from Mount Barker High School and Cornerstone College, and look forward to visiting not just those schools but also the Mount Barker area again soon.