Prime Minister Tony Abbott address at the Welcome to Country Ceremony, Parliament House
And response from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten Welcome To Country – Response
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
This Parliament always has great work to do: to secure our borders, to balance our budget, to strengthen our economy, to the relief of families and for the protection of jobs.
But if we are to do great things, we must begin them well. We must begin them well.
We must acknowledge the extended family of the Australian nation.
We must acknowledge and celebrate the essential unity of the Australian people.
It’s Noel Pearson, a great indigenous leader and a prophet for our times, who has observed that Australia is the product of a British and an indigenous heritage. This Parliament is redolent of our British heritage. But only recently has this Parliament acknowledged our indigenous heritage.
The first Parliament to meet here in this city 86 years ago was opened by the Duke of York. There was one indigenous person present that day. Matilda has already recalled the presence on that day of a local man, Jimmy Clements. And that man on the side of the ceremony was every bit as much a symbol of unity as the representative of the Crown, because Jimmy Clements, although unacknowledged that day, carried with him an Australian flag.
Haven’t we changed over 86 years? Haven’t we come a long way? This city has come a long way. Our country has come a long way. And this Parliament has come a very long way indeed.
We have had indigenous members of this Parliament.
We have in Ken Wyatt, the first indigenous member of the House of Representatives.
In this term of Parliament we have in Nova Peris the first female indigenous member of this Parliament.
Two indigenous members of this Parliament, in this, the 44 h Parliament of our country.
May that number increase. May we one day, not too far off, have an indigenous Prime Minister
Who would have thought that the Northern Territory would have an indigenous Chief Minister?
But if we can have our first female Senator, indigenous Senator, our first indigenous Member of the House of Representatives, if we can have an indigenous Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, we certainly can have an indigenous Prime Minister of this country and we certainly can have in this Parliament, or the next, full recognition of indigenous people in the Constitution of our country.
There is much that I dispute with my predecessor as Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, but I honour him for the historic apology to indigenous people that took place at the opening of this Parliament in 2008 and I honour him for including this indigenous element in the rituals of our Parliament, which is so fittingly now a part of the opening of a new parliamentary term.
WELCOME TO COUNTRY – RESPONSE (FED)
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten Welcome To Country – Response
Can I thank Matilda for the Welcome to Country and also to everyone here for the sharing the traditional music and dancing of this land with us.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on today, and the long and continuing relationship between Indigenous peoples and their Country.
I would like to pay my respects to Elders both past and present – especially those Elders here with us today.
Can I also acknowledge the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Senate, many of my colleagues from the House and Senators who are joining us on this occasion.
And to welcome everyone else who is here with us today – I know some of you have travelled a long way to join us.
We meet today with hope for the future.
We have that hope because of what we’ve achieved in this place in recent years.
It is here that we stood together and committed to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians – and the gap is closing.
It is here that we committed to formally recognise our first peoples in our founding document – the Constitution – a cause we continue into this Parliament.
It is here that a Prime Minister and a nation said sorry – and started a new relationship with Aboriginal people – one based on respect and reconciliation.
I know that there is much still to do – and it’s with this new spirit of reconciliation that we stand together today and reaffirm our commitment to do more.
Because this work doesn’t end with each Parliament. It transcends parliaments and it transcends politics.
I stand proud to serve in the Parliament of a country where the wonderful, important gesture such as we have seen today is common practice at events from the beginning of a new parliament, or at ANZAC Day services, or at school assemblies.
Together, I am confident we can make sure that the 44th Parliament of Australia can both honour this past, and push forward to ensure that the future will be a bright one for all Australians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike.
Once again Matilda, thank you for the Welcome to Country.
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