NACCHO Alert : Statements to Parliament #1967referendum #Mabo25 speeches from PM @TurnbullMalcolm and @BillShortenMP

 ” I want to thank the ‘67 Referendum campaigners and thank the Mabo campaigners for the gift they gave our nation through their perseverance and dedication to their peoples and cultures.

And I thank all First Australians who preserve their ancient culture, work so hard to maintain and recover ancient languages.

Your culture defines who you are, it speaks to your country, your identity, your belonging.

For time out of mind, for more than 50,000 years your people and your culture have shaped and been shaped, cared for and been cared by, defined and been defined by this land, our land, Australia.

Your culture, our culture, is old and new, as dynamic as it is connected – on the highest tree top the new flower of the morning draws its being from deep and ancient roots.

Now it is up to us, together and united, to draw from the wisdom and the example of those we honour today and so inspired, bring new heights and brighter blooms to that tree of reconciliation which protects and enriches us all

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speech : Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision

Download full PM Speech here PDF

Prime Minister 1967 Referendum specch to house

Image above designed by Kristina McKinlay from NCIE Event

On Sunday 28 May from 12-5pm the NCIE 180 George St Redfern is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the successful 1967 Referendum at a community event.

NCIE CEO, Kirstie Parker said, “We’re proud to host stories and memories from the referendum campaign at the NCIE. We hope many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and wider communities will be able to attend to share stories, memories, film, images and food with us.”

 “And finally to a referendum, the highest hurdle in Australian politics, asking Australians to vote Yes for Aboriginal people.

I want to say, as we acknowledge the champions and heroes here, I want to acknowledge the 90.8 per cent of Australian, perhaps some of us here, our parents and grandparents – they too deserve credit for righting a long-overdue wrong.

That overwhelming verdict speaks for a country that came late to the need for institutional change – but our families did get there in the end.

And it speaks for people who refused to take ‘No’ for an answer.

As the celebrated poet Oodgeroo put it:

“The real victory was the spirit of hope and optimism…

We had won something… We were visible, hopeful and vocal.

Fringe-dwellers, no more”

Mabo was an historic decision – and the Keating Government made it an historic turning point. Without regard for politics or polls, Paul Keating took the opportunity to ensure justice was done.

He brought Indigenous leaders to the Cabinet table itself to negotiate the Native Title Act – including our friend, now-Senator Patrick Dodson.”

Bill Shorten Opposition Leader : Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision see full Speech Part 2

Download full Bill Shorten Speech here PDF

Bill Shorten 1967 Referendum Speech to house

View speech here

Or Here

Mr Speaker.

Yanggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngunawal dhawra. Wanggarralijinyin mariny bulan bugarabang.

I acknowledge we are on the lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

Australians come from nearly 200 countries, of all faiths, all cultures and all backgrounds.

And yet in a world where conflict and intolerance seem more intractable than ever, we live together in peace and harmony in the midst of extraordinary diversity.

Our nation has a bright future and much to celebrate.

However, Mr Speaker, we know that we have not always treated our First Australians with the respect that they deserve.

Truth is the first step towards healing.

And this week we honour those milestones that helped our nation chart a course towards reconciliation and healing – the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, 25 years since the Mabo High Court decision, and 20 years since the Bringing Them Home report.

Fifty years ago, laws and regulations controlled where our First Australians could and couldn’t move and what they could and couldn’t do – lives limited, lives demeaned, lives diminished.

Generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were removed from their families and communities. We acknowledge that this removal separated children from their mothers and fathers, their families, their lands, their languages and cultures – cared for by their ancestors for over 50,000 years.

Indigenous Diggers, returned from war having defended our freedoms, our democracy and the rule of law, were denied the rights of citizenship for which they had so fiercely fought.

Fifty years ago our nation was given the opportunity to vote for change.

And, Mr Speaker, our nation did.

No member of this place authorised a ‘no’ case.

The Parliament and the community were united.

The Constitutional amendment was substantial, as it needed to be.

And the result defined our nation.

The 1967 Referendum had the highest ‘Yes’ vote of any Referendum before or since.

By working together as one, we voted as a nation to enable the Commonwealth to make laws relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and for our First Australians, who had always been here, to finally be counted in the official population.

As the Indigenous rights campaigner, the late Chicka Dixon told his daughter Rhonda, who is here today, ‘The government counted everything. They counted the cattle, the cars, the TVs, but they didn’t count us. It’s like we were invisible’.

A campaign badge said ‘Vote Yes for Aborigines’ and the Referendum was known as ‘the Aboriginal question’. But this was a question about our Australian values, and the nation voted yes for Aborigines and for Australians.

And so the campaign was fought on the platform of rights and freedoms. Indigenous people wanted and demanded to enjoy the full and equal rights of the citizenship they had been granted years earlier.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in many parts of the country could still not freely attend public swimming pools, sit in the classroom at a public school without fear of exclusion, or have a drink with their mates at the local pub. And fundamentally our First Australians could not shape their own identity.

And that discrimination and exclusion diminished us all as Australians.

It did not reflect the sacrifices and the contribution our First Australians made to our nation, or indeed the humanity of all of us, all our fellow Australians.

90.77 per cent of people recognised this injustice and voted for change.

This renewed confidence inspired our first Indigenous Parliamentarian to join the Liberal Party—Neville Bonner who entered the Senate in 1971.

Pat Dodson, Malarndirri McCarthy and Jacqui Lambie serve in the Senate today as Neville Bonner did.

And Ken Wyatt was the first Aboriginal man to be elected to this House, and Linda Burney the first woman.

Ken, the Minister for Ageing and Indigenous Health is the first Indigenous Minister in a Commonwealth Government.

The 1967 Referendum provided the constitutional basis for our native title legislation and heritage protection.

And in response to the historic Mabo High Court case, which overturned the doctrine of terra nullius, the Parliament passed the Native Title Act in 1993.

Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights and interests in the land have been formally recognised in over 40 per cent of Australia’s land mass.

The number of determinations under the Native Title Act now outweigh the number of claims currently registered.

The ownership and custodianship of the land has led to greater economic empowerment of communities across the country, the preservation of culture, and a network of Indigenous rangers who maintain our lands for our children and grandchildren.

And just as we could not foreshadow all the positive implications of these changes, great things can flow from amending the Constitution again.

We must not forget, Mr Speaker, that the road to the 1967 Referendum was neither short nor easy.

For more than 50 years before, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had fought to stop discrimination by governments.

There were many compromises along the way.

Building on the success of the ’67 campaign, 50 years on, we now have the chance to take another step in our journey.

An important Indigenous designed and led discussion is occurring at Uluru today, as our nation considers further changes to the Constitution.

It is vitally important our First Australians consider and debate the models of recognition, free of political interference, and that the diversity of views and opinions within the Indigenous communities are discussed.

The next step in Constitutional recognition needs to be embraced by all Australians, but it needs first to be embraced by our First Australians if it is to be proposed at all.

I know I speak for the Leader of the Opposition when I say we both look forward to receiving the report from the Referendum Council.

The early campaigners who stood up for what was right, who fought to stop discrimination and whose contribution to the nation has been so remarkable should be recognised, remembered, well known.

As I was saying to some of you earlier this morning – you have written great bold chapters in our nation’s history.

Campaigners like Worimi man Fred Maynard, who established Australia’s first all-Aboriginal political organisation, the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association in New South Wales in the early 1920s. Fred wanted the right for Aboriginal people to determine their own lives, control their own land, and for the New South Wales Government to close the Aborigines Protection Board.

Campaigners like William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta man from Victoria, who tried to petition King George V seeking Aboriginal representation in the Australian Parliament. The then Government said ‘no good purpose’ would come of sending the petition, and they didn’t – a glimpse of the political powerlessness experienced by Aboriginal people in those days. I acknowledge the presence in the House today of William Cooper’s great-grandson Kevin Russell.

Jessie Street had an unwavering belief that the time was right to launch the campaign for the 1967 Referendum. Jessie said: “You can’t get anywhere without a change in the Constitution and you can’t get that without a referendum. You’ll need a petition with 100,000 signatures. We’d better start on it at once”. And together they did. We welcome Jessie’s grandson, Andrew Mackay, and great grandson, Will Mackay, who are here today.

Joe McGinness brought state representative bodies together to speak with one respected voice to Government and the people of Australia. Joe is one of the great unsung leaders of our nation. Senator Pat Dodson has said that Joe was: “The inspiration to many…who have joined in the battle for justice. He has provided wisdom and advice, guidance and correction, humour and hope.” We welcome his daughter Sandra McGinness, who is here with us today.

Sir Doug Nicholls was a founding member of the renamed Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, a coalition of church leaders, unionists and Indigenous activists.

Sir Doug’s daughter Aunty Pam Pedersen and granddaughter Diana Travis—who were both in the campaign, Diana as a teenager—are also here today.

These are just some of the many people who brought wisdom and leadership to ‘67’s cause.

So too did Jack and Jean Horner, Stan Davey, Shirley Andrews, Pearl Gibbs, Hannah and Emil Witton, whose daughter Heidi and granddaughter Keren Cox-Witton are with us today.

And, of course there was Faith Bandler who campaigned so hard—for 10 years—and who would help bring the Referendum home.

Faith’s vision was clear—to see Aboriginal people as ‘one people’ with all Australians.

Hers was a message, not of assimilation, but of unity – of black people and white people working together, equally valued. Faith did not want to be singled out – in her view the Referendum outcome was the result of good teamwork

We honour all those who stood together including those in the house with us today—Aunty Dulcie Flower, Aunty Shirley Peisley, Aunty Ruth Wallace, Uncle Bob Anderson, Uncle Gordon Briscoe, Dr Barrie Pittock and Uncle Alf Neal.

The Freedom Riders led by the young Charlie Perkins in 1965, brought racial discrimination into the minds of Australian households and appealed to a great Australian value – a fair go. Welcome Eileen Perkins, Charlie’s wife, his son Adam and three grandsons.

And on the 3rd of June we will acknowledge a critical milestone in Indigenous land rights—the 25th anniversary of the historic Mabo High Court decision.

It was Eddie Mabo and the other plaintiffs, Father Dave Passi, Sam Passi, James Rice and Celuia Mapo Salee who’s perseverance brought about the High Court of Australia’s decision to recognise the native title rights of the Meriam people of the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait.

And they are all represented here today. I want to especially acknowledge the presence of Eddie Mabo’s wife, Aunty Bonita and their daughter Gail.

Eddie Koiki Mabo was an advocate of the 1967 Referendum, fighting for equal rights including education. But despite the success of the ‘67 campaign, in 1972 Eddie Mabo still had to get permission from the Queensland authorities to visit his dying father on Mer Island. That permission was denied. Six weeks later his father died.

Gail wrote: “My father never forgave the government authorities for this injustice. It fuelled his determination for recognition and equality in society”.

In 1982 the Mabo case began.

It was hard fought and it took its toll.

Eddie Koiki Mabo passed away on the 21st of January 1992, just months before the High Court recognised what he and his fellow plaintiffs had always known – that Mer Island belonged to the Meriam people and that Meriam customs, laws and cultures had existed for tens of thousands of years.

Mr Speaker, we were fortunate to have Eip Karem Beizam from Mer Island who performed a hymn in memory of that momentous time.

Thank you for your beautiful hymn, and for bringing the Meriam language into the parliament today.

Au Esau – thank you.

We have come a long way since the Referendum and the Mabo case, but we have not come far enough.

We have made gains in child health and infant mortality rates and in fighting chronic disease. Native title holders are unlocking their lands for cultural protection and economic empowerment.

More Indigenous students are enrolling in university than ever before, and around two-thirds are women. For Indigenous university graduates, there are no employment gaps with the rest of the Australian population.

But the gains are not enough.

I want to ensure that Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are equally educated and equally empowered—that Australians are ‘one people’, as Faith Bandler and her fellow campaigners so desperately hoped and fought for.

That’s why today, in furtherance of our programs and our policies and objectives we are announcing a $138 million education package further to enable the economic and social inclusion for which the ’67 campaigners fought.

As Sir Douglas Nicholls said: “All we want is to be able to think and do the same things as white people while still retaining our identity as a peoples”.

For full inclusion in the economic and social life of the nation, we need our young Indigenous people to have a solid education, while keeping strong their identity.

Mr Speaker, today we reflect on the past and its impact on the present. We look forward with hope and optimism. We are joined today by 50 Indigenous Youth Parliamentarians who stand today on the shoulders of these giants.

I want to thank the ‘67 Referendum campaigners and thank the Mabo campaigners for the gift they gave our nation through their perseverance and dedication to their peoples and cultures.

And I thank all First Australians who preserve their ancient culture, work so hard to maintain and recover ancient languages.

Your culture defines who you are, it speaks to your country, your identity, your belonging.

And as we embrace in reconciliation your culture enriches us all.

For time out of mind, for more than 50,000 years your people and your culture have shaped and been shaped, cared for and been cared by, defined and been defined by this land, our land, Australia.

Your culture, our culture, is old and new, as dynamic as it is connected – on the highest tree top the new flower of the morning draws its being from deep and ancient roots.

Now it is up to us, together and united, to draw from the wisdom and the example of those we honour today and so inspired, bring new heights and brighter blooms to that tree of reconciliation which protects and enriches us

Bill Shorten Opposition Leader : Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th Anniversary of the Mabo Decision

Thank you Mr Speaker

Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and I pay my respects to elders past and present.

This parliament stands on what is, what was and what will always be Aboriginal land.

It is important – and right – that more Aboriginal people come to stand here as Members and Senators.

And I want to thank our friends from the Torres Strait for the welcome ceremony. It is always astonishing to see the world’s oldest culture brought to life in front of you.

On behalf of the Opposition, I want to give a special welcome to the original warriors for change – and their proud family members.

Your presence here today enriches this day – it puts a human face on history.

In fighting to be part of the Australian identity, you gifted a larger identity to all Australians.

You and your guests simply make us more proud to be Australian.

Today we commemorate and celebrate two signal moments in our Australian story and we honour the heroes who made it possible.

The 1967 Referendum and the High Court’s Mabo decision were triumphs for truth telling and for decency.

Both were platforms for further progress.

And overwhelmingly, both were victories authored by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

People who for so long had been relegated to silent roles, or written out of the script altogether – took centre stage.

In 1967, they looked non-Indigenous Australia in the eye and said:

Count us together.

Make us one people.

And in 1992, the insulting, discriminatory fiction of terra nullius was overturned.

While he tragically did not live long enough to see justice done, Eddie Mabo kept the promise he made to his darling daughter Gail, who is here today, when he said:

‘One day, my girl, all of Australia is going to know my name’

Our country is bigger and better for the courage and endeavour we remember today.

But we should never forgot that neither of these acts we commemorate today sprang from a spontaneous act of national generosity.

None of these changes happened by accident – nor were they given as gifts from the table. These were earned.

They were battles against ignorance, fought in the face of indifference.

They were the result of struggle, the culmination of years of campaigning, of grassroots advocacy, of rallies and freedom rides.

Of lobbying and legal wrangling, the setbacks and sacrifice.

Like all great acts of progress – they were hard fought, hard work and hard won.

Victory didn’t just change our Constitution, or our laws, it changed our country for the better.

Mr Speaker, fifty years is not so long ago.

It’s not so long ago that fans could cheer the brilliance of the great Polly Farmer – a man who overcame polio to transform the role of ruckman forever.

But at the same time, when selected three times as an All-Australian, his Aboriginality meant he wasn’t counted as an Australian.

Not so long ago that Buddy Lea, a section commander in 10 Platoon at the Battle of Long Tan – could be shot, three times, while trying to carry a comrade to safety, return home a hero to his brothers-in-arms, he had the chance to die for Australia, yet not be counted in the census as an Australian.

Not so long ago that Australian mothers lived with the perpetual chronic anxiety that their child could be taken from them, stolen away from culture, country and connection.

And you only have to talk to members of the Stolen Generations – as the Prime Minister and I did yesterday – to know that shadow has still not even departed.

Mr Speaker

Exclusion from the census was a disgraceful insult – the bitter legacy of the political bickering of Federation and its obsession with ‘race’.

But far more harm was done by the provision which prevented the Commonwealth from making laws with regard to Aboriginal Australians.

This gave successive Federal Commonwealth governments an alibi for failure – it left the First Australians at the mercy of a patchwork of arbitrary state policies.

Struggling against institutionalised prejudice which cemented inequality and denied basic freedoms.

A racist system which broke families and shattered connections with country.

Where men, women and children lived with the fear that on a policeman’s whim or an administrator’s paternalism they could be deported from their communities to hell-holes hundreds of miles away.

We do honour to the people of 1967 and the plaintiffs of Mabo to use today as time to think hard about the cost of institutionalised prejudice – to generations and to our nation.

On the weekend, Michael Gordon wrote movingly of what Indigenous Queenslanders called ‘life under the act’

He spoke with the remarkable Iris Paulson, one of 11 children, sent to Brisbane from Cherbourg mission to work as a servant for ‘pocket money’.

Iris still carries her ‘exemption card’ which allowed her to travel and to marry without permission from the authorities.

She still carries the memory of Auntie Celia’s inspiration.

A proud Aboriginal woman who:

Said what she thought at a time when a lot of people were too scared to speak, for fear of being pushed back onto the reserves.

The Prime Minister has mentioned some of the names but:

· Auntie Celia

· Pearl Gibbs

· Charles Perkins

· Jessie Street

· Faith Bandler

· Pastor Doug Nicholls

· Stan Davey

· Bert Groves

· Joe McGinnis

· Kath Walker

· Chicka Dixon

And many others, some of who we are privileged to have here today, deserve recognition for making the 1967 referendum possible.

All had witnessed – and lived with – inequality.

Faith Bandler used to talk about her time in Young, picking cherries for the Land Army during the Second World War.

Chatting with the Aboriginal people working on the adjoining property.

She learned they were picking the same fruit, at the same pace, for the same purpose – but for far less money.

Doug Nicholls’ speed and skill took him all the way from the Goulburn Valley League, to train with the famous Carlton Football Club.

One night, he went into the rooms for a rub-down.

The trainer refused – point blank – to touch him. He would not put his white hands on Doug’s black skin.

Carlton’s loss became Fitzroy’s success. Doug went on to become a Fitzroy champion – but he never forgot that night.

I welcome his daughter, Pam Pederson here today.

This is the world it is perhaps too easy to forget existed. But this is the world that the people we honour today lived in – these are the attitudes and practices they were up against.

Their task was far bigger than one campaign for one vote. It meant:

· Breaking the ‘great Australian silence’ that cheapened and diminished our history.

· Opening the eyes of this country to inequality and poverty

· And finding new ways to tell a story as old as Australia’s European history.

In May 1957, a full ten years before the vote, Pastor Doug Nicholls screened a film in the Sydney Town Hall showing the hardship experienced by Aboriginal people living in the Warburton Ranges.

It captured hunger and disease – it showed children ‘too weak to brush flies from their face’.

One newspaper reported: “there were cries of disgust and horror – and people openly wept”

The meeting attended by 1500 or so – and supported by the Australian Workers Union – launched the first petition to parliament for Constitutional change, tabled by the Labor

Member for Parkes, Les Haylen.

In the years that followed folding tables and clipboards were set up in church halls and shopping streets, in country towns and big cities.

And by 1963, campaigners for change had collected 103,000 names – before the internet, before social media and before smartphones. This was human commitment: face-to-face meetings and persuasive argument.

Soon, members of the house started referring to the petition as the ‘morning prayer’ – because it was the first item of business every day.

This was all hard graft – eroding resistance, tackling self-interest, refusing to rest until the issue was at the centre of the political debate.

Everything done on a shoestring budget of small coin donations.

And finally to a referendum, the highest hurdle in Australian politics, asking Australians to vote Yes for Aboriginal people.

I want to say, as we acknowledge the champions and heroes here, I want to acknowledge the 90.8 per cent of Australian, perhaps some of us here, our parents and grandparents – they too deserve credit for righting a long-overdue wrong.

That overwhelming verdict speaks for a country that came late to the need for institutional change – but our families did get there in the end.

And it speaks for people who refused to take ‘No’ for an answer.

As the celebrated poet Oodgeroo put it:

“The real victory was the spirit of hope and optimism…

We had won something… We were visible, hopeful and vocal.

Fringe-dwellers, no more”

Mr Speaker

The same spirit lived in Eddie Mabo – he knew who he was and where he belonged.

As he said: ‘sticking a union jack in the sand’ didn’t ‘wipe out 16 generations’.

He took that essential truth all the way to the highest court in land.

And for once, a justice system which had so often failed and disappointed our first Australians, came through.

Native title became part of the inherited common law – not dependent on the largesse of government or second place to business deals.

Eddie Mabo’s victory stretched far beyond the sand and waters of the island he loved.

It reached back two centuries to eliminate the ignorant lie of terra nullius and enshrine in our laws: the bond between the world’s oldest living culture and this ancient continent.

It also proved that one man, with love for his country and his culture in his soul can change the world.

Mr Speaker

Mabo was an historic decision – and the Keating Government made it an historic turning point. Without regard for politics or polls, Paul Keating took the opportunity to ensure justice was done.

He brought Indigenous leaders to the Cabinet table itself to negotiate the Native Title Act – including our friend, now-Senator Patrick Dodson.

In the Senate itself, Gareth Evans spent more than 48 hours of the debate on his feet,

taking questions and fending off an attempted Opposition filibuster.

Today we are all the beneficiaries and witnesses to the legacy of Paul Keating’s

courage.

Mr Speaker

In remembering these historic achievements, we are reminded of the tension, the balance between celebrating success, honouring our past and recognising unfinished business.

Reconciliation has always depended on truth-telling.

We love to say Australia punches above our weight – and it does.

Nowhere is that more true than in the brilliant accomplishments of our Aboriginal and

Torres Strait Islander peoples.

– Scientists making breakthroughs

– Authors winning acclaim

– Artists

– Architects

– Rangers on country

– Olympians

– Senators

– Ministers

– Australians of the year

– Champions in every footy code.

This is all true. But what is also true is the inequality that brought tears to the eyes of that crowd in Sydney Town Hall in 1957 – that inequality, in different forms, still lives with us.

Stubbornly, obstinately, not yet eradicated.

In different guises, paternalism and neglect still afflict our policy-making.

Empowerment is said a lot more than it is delivered.

In too many ways, not enough has changed in 50 years.

Too many young Aboriginal men are more likely to go to jail than to university. 40 per cent of Aboriginal children are in out-of-home care. Children growing up away from their country and from kin, away from their culture – struggling at school during the day, battling trauma at night.

Too many mothers still lose their precious babies to preventable disease.

Too many of our first peoples grow up with lesser opportunity – for good jobs, decent housing, a happy family and a long life.

Changing this means tackling the nitty-gritty of practical disadvantage.

Understanding that what works in Yirrkala might not apply in Palm Island, that what succeeds for the Murri might not deliver for the Pitjantjarra.

Recognising that every community, whilst linked by their Australianess, has its own culture and its own particular circumstances.

But regardless of the community, every community of our first Australians has the right to participate in the Australian story – and we should do whatever it takes to give them that chance.

As a parliament and a people we should come to this task with humility as well as hope.

It is why Constitutional Recognition is most hard – but most important.

Securing a place of honour for the first Australians on our national birth certificate isn’t the final word, or the end of the road. We understand that.

But it does say we are serious – serious about justice, both historical and real.

It says we’re prepared to help write a new story with Aboriginal people, our first Australians, a chapter which is a story of belonging.

That’s why Recognition cannot be empty poetry authored by white people.

It has to be as real as Australia can make it, as meaningful as we are capable collectively of achieving.

In that spirit, we await the conclusion of the gathering at Uluru – and the advice presented to the Prime Minister and myself, and all of us privileged to serve this parliament.

Mr Speaker

Fifty years ago – to the Holt Government’s great credit – it didn’t fund the case against constitutional change.

Remarkable really. A parliament full of white men, many born at the turn of the 20th Century, approved a straightforward statement of the ‘Yes’ case.

And I quote:

Our personal sense of justice, our common sense, and our international reputation in a world in which racial issues are being highlighted every day, require that we get rid of this out-moded provision.

If that parliament, in those days could find common ground on the elimination of discrimination from the Constitution.

If they could summon the humility to acknowledge that however firmly they had clung to their old attitudes, those attitudes were wrong.

Then surely we – 50 years later – in our more reconciled, a more confident and more diverse modern Australia.

Surely we can find it in our abilities, in our intellect, in our heart to achieve Constitutional Recognition.

So, in celebrating these old anniversaries and looking back – it falls to this parliament, to ask ourselves the question: What will be our contribution going forward?

The words and the sentiment of everyone here is admirable, it is excellent. But we will not have the ability to shirk the question that will be asked of us.

It is our turn to step up. Not to find fault – but to find common ground.

Not to look for the lowest common denominator – but to find change that we hopefully, in 10 to 20 years’ time, can say: Do you remember when answered up? When we measured up?

When we spoke to the better angels of the Australian nature. That we actually said that this Constitution can afford to recognise our first Australians.

I am grateful for the presence of so many of those who campaigned in 1967, of those who campaigned in 1992, of the family members.

You give us inspiration.

You do this place honour.

I sincerely hope and promise – that we will do our very best to carry that spirit, and your courage for the questions we must answer.

We must answer affirmatively for Constitutional Recognition of our first Australians.

 

 

 

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