The Redfern Speech - 20 years on Mon 10 December 2012 Cassy O'Connor Minister for Aboriginal Affairs "However intractable the problems may seem, we cannot resign ourselves to failure any more than we can hide behind the contemporary version of Social Darwinism which says that to reach back for the poor and dispossessed is to risk being dragged down. That seems to me not only morally indefensible, but bad history," - Prime Minister Paul Keating, Redfern 1992 Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Cassy O'Connor MP, today reflected on the powerful speech delivered by former Prime Minister Paul Keating on this day in 1992, observing that, as a nation and as a State, we have a long way to go before true reconciliation is achieved. "Prime Minister Keating's legendary Redfern Speech shifted the collective conscience of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. It named for the first time the terrible lack of self-reflection and empathy, the arrogance and the prejudice that drove the First People to dispossession from country and from family over the entire course of European history. "The Redfern Speech remains relevant to this day. While there have been important moves towards recognition, return of lands, economic self-sufficiency and reconciliation, there remains much still to be achieved. "Aboriginal people lived in this vast, rich and beautiful land for tens of thousands of years, successfully, among many, many different Aboriginal nations, and in a mere 200 years, we have dispossessed, disadvantaged, and abused mainstream Aboriginal peoples and cultures," she said. "While old wounds have shown signs of healing and old prejudices are confined to small pockets within our communities, yet Aboriginal people still feel deeply the theft of their land and of their children. "Tasmania led the way with the apology to the stolen generation and as a state has returned approximately 55,000 hectares of land but the healing process is still ongoing. "Tasmanian Aborigines still understandably feel that not enough has been done to recognise the crimes that were committed against their ancestors, their strong palawa identity and enduring connection to place. "That is one reason why the return of culturally significant lands is so important, and I do sincerely hope that larapuna and Rebecca Creek will be returned to the original owners without too much further delay in the Legislative Council. "Australia's future should be one of continual and determined efforts towards true reconciliation. Our future should be one where we utilise the wisdom and connectivity of Aboriginal people, who are collectively the oldest and most continuous human culture in the world," Ms O'Connor said. "The message should be that there is nothing to fear or to lose in the recognition of historical truth, or the extension of social justice, or the deepening of Australian social democracy to include Aboriginal Australians. There is everything to gain."