I pay respect to the traditional and original owners of this land - the muwinina people. I acknowledge and pay respect to the elders here today, and I acknowledge those who have passed before us. I acknowledge today’s Tasmanian Aboriginal community who are the custodians and owners of this land.
Your Excellency, the Honourable Professor Kate Warner, Governor of Tasmania; Members of the Tasmanian Parliament, and local government; distinguished guests all.
It is a great honour to speak on the historic occasion of the launch of the Reconciliation Council of Tasmania, fittingly on the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous People – which this year this commemorates the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This milestone Declaration, which recognised the rights of indigenous peoples across the globe, has helped deliver some major advancements at national, regional and international levels. But the UN reports that there continues to be a gap in the implementation of effective policies to improve the quality of life for indigenous people.
This is, of course, is also true of our community.
As the Prime Minister has acknowledged in the latest Closing the Gap report on how we, as a nation, are meeting our responsibilities to improve health, education and employment outcomes for the First Australians; while successes are being achieved, progress overall nationally, is too slow. There is some way to go.
The Reconciliation Council will help in our efforts.
Its counterpart, the Reconciliation Council of New South Wales, I believe says it well; that for reconciliation to be achieved it must not be simply symbolic, there needs to be a series of real, practical outcomes so that Aboriginal children will have the same life opportunities and choices as non-Indigenous children, and the length and quality of a person’s life will not be determined by their racial background.
Tellingly, they note that in the years since the NSW Council was established the idea of reconciliation has been contested and debated, and has evolved significantly.
This reflects the fact that while reconciliation fundamentally requires understanding, truth, respect, and unity, it is likely that there always be matters that challenge, that reveal a difference in points of view, and of competing priorities. I think that Tasmania today is well up for that challenge.
And I believe that his Council will play its part in our own evolution, inclusive engagement, and community conversation.
We are the last state to have such a Council, as we were the last State in the country to recognise Aboriginal people as Tasmania’s First People in our Constitution.
But when our State Parliament came together last year to change our Constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as Tasmania’s First People and the traditional and original owners of Tasmanian lands and waters, it was in my view a very powerful and important step forward in the journey of reconciliation, and a demonstration of how we can come together in this journey.
In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the commitment and conviction of Mr Bill Lawson AM, in leading the work to establish the Tasmania Reconciliation Council with the vision of all Tasmanians working together in a meaningful spirit of inclusion, consultation, truth and reconciliation.