Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (17:47): I was interested that the member for Lingiari said that, if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not comfortable with the process or the wording of the constitutional amendment, forget it. I can understand that. I can understand that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are going to have to be more than comfortable; they are going to have to be supportive. I come to this not quite as a newbie, because I have an issue in my own electorate. I think this issue of recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is significant not for just electorates like mine but for the nation. I believe that we cannot move on as a nation until we resolve these differences with our Indigenous communities.
Furthermore, I often speak about communities having hope, being in some control of their lives and belonging somewhere. We are part of the tribe that we are—whichever tribe that we belong to, we belong somewhere. Where people fall by the wayside is when they have no hope, they have no control of their lives and they do not belong anywhere. The massive movement we are seeing at the moment of people across Europe—and even in our own region across South-East Asia—are people without hope and without control who cannot stay where they belong. Sadly, I look at the Australian nation and say that there are a group of us, a part of us, about whom you could truly say that many of them do not have hope, they have lost control and they do not feel like they belong. Therefore, we have the inspiration for the recognition of the Indigenous communities in our Constitution.
I was extremely interested when the House was debating the final report of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The chair of the committee, the member for Hasluck, Ken Wyatt, said a couple of things in his address to this House when he was tabling the report. He said:
This is a time to walk together, towards a common goal of an inclusive, vibrant, culturally-rich Australia.
That is the challenge we all now face.
I am confident that there is enough goodwill between the various interests in this issue that we can find common ground.
He said, ‘The journey has been a long one.’ I believe that this is more than a long journey; it is a journey that has been in continuum. It is a journey without an end because it is part of our nature—our DNA—and who we are as Australians. It is a part of our future because, unless we resolve these matters, however they are perceived, I do not believe our spirit can move on. We need to resolve some matters.
McMillan had moved cattle into the area and was convinced of the huge pastoral potential of the Gippsland region but Curnow, probably aware of the damage wrought by cattle upon the native ecology, attacked this stock and dispersed them into bush. McMillan’s response was to immediately form a posse from the stockmen and for the next few days marauded across the countryside, killing many Aboriginal people, men, women and children. He kept no records of the killings et cetera.
I think today we are still dealing with this grief that would have been expressed into the land. So when people came to me and said, ‘We would like to change the name of your electorate,’ I said ‘Actually, I do not get a say. I have a view but I do not get a say.’ The say is had by the Australian people through the Australian Electoral Commission. Because of the McMillan influence across Gippsland, I am quite happy that the name of the electorate be changed on redistribution to one that is acceptable to the community at large.
I have just read a press release that comes from the Prime Minister of the day and the Leader of the Opposition, standing together, working as part of this journey in their endeavours to resolve the issues so the nation—together—can come to a place where we can recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our Constitution, and other parts that are unacceptable to our Constitution, today, can be taken out. There were those who believed it would be short work and would be dealt with in this parliament. As the member for Hasluck has found out, as we go through the processes, beginning with the former government and now with this government—and it looks to be the next parliament—I do not think, after all these years, that we have to rush into or put pressure upon any people on any sides of the argument.
I understand there are many people with differing views on this issue. I would like to put my name to a desire for recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our Constitution, that they would be absolutely and totally drawn back in unison with the rest of our society, that we can walk down the street as one and a man will be judged for his or her character not his or her colour, that the differences and the fears that are held between the two nations are disarmed and the past years are melted away and we become one people with equal opportunities for all our children throughout the nation.
Having said that, there is a process of the Prime Minister of this country and the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition of working together so that there will be further community consultation and a council to work towards this recognition. We can only hope and I am sure, in this, that there will be a continuance and in continuum bipartisan approach that we do not force anybody, we do not intervene in the discussions, we do not take sides, but we are determined to overcome the problems that are presented by all peoples—as the member for Lingiari said, ‘People of goodwill working in the best interests of this nation.’ I can only plead on behalf of my constituents that at least in this generation, my generation, the matter will be resolved and the nation can move on in a very strong and multicultural way.