In the recent opinion piece by the Hon. Ken Wyatt AM, member for Hasluck and Minister for Indigenous Australians, he wrote:
“Wiradjuri Elder Isabel Reid was born in Wagga Wagga in 1932.
One afternoon, she was walking home from school with her brother and sister when she was taken from her family by the government. Her parents did not know what happened to their children.
Aunty Isabel was to become a domestic servant, sent to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home, where wages for her work were paid to the NSW government.
She was denied the opportunity of a good education, denied a bond to her family, community and country, and was targeted for no other reason than the fact she was Aboriginal.
Today Aunty Isabel is one of the oldest living survivors of the Stolen Generation—”
and last month Ken was able to meet and talk with her in Canberra, as she was honoured as the New South Wales Senior Australian of the Year and nominated for Senior Australian of the Year. He wrote:
She reflected on her own journey, “My life is pretty simple, what I do, I do for my community and for all the children out there that need the helping hand that I didn’t get way back then.”
She was one of thousands. It’s unimaginable for us that our children could disappear off the street and we wouldn’t know where they’d gone.
I’ve lived my whole time as a parliamentarian through all the processes of denial and obfuscation, of saying that they were doing the right thing at the time, of people saying, ‘But they were good people, trying to do the right thing.’ No, they were mistakes. When the apology came, from Kevin Rudd—and I was there that day—in that moment, I really thought, ‘This is the day when the world changes for Indigenous people.’
I really believed that.
I read an article today from Ross Gittins that talked about Philip Lowe’s management of the economy and how the management is not to make it any worse than it already is, not to make the difficulties we’re facing any worse than they already are. What has management done in Indigenous affairs since the apology? I think all we’ve achieved, if anything, is not to make it worse than it was. All the indicators tell you we haven’t made it better, we haven’t broken through the barrier and we haven’t changed things for so many people.
My support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart caused some controversy. I have no idea why, because it seems to me a no-brainer that we give a voice. We talk about treaty, and we talk about truth telling. The truth is: we’ve got it wrong all the way through. We haven’t allowed the Indigenous community to partake in the decision-making of the nation, from Murray-Darling water to the management of the forests to understanding how Australia needs to be farmed in the way they farmed before the British and other nations arrived here. They have been so resilient, still standing today as the oldest culture in the world. They’re knocked about. They’re not in good nick. Their children are not getting the education they should be getting. Their adults are not getting the opportunities they should be receiving from this nation.
It’s not about money; it’s about recognition of the past and bravely facing the present and the future. These things are not hard, but they are difficult. They’re difficult for us to achieve in a community that desperately needs our statement from our hearts back to them. The Statement from the Heart to us was a generous offer of reconciliation. It’s up to us, as this parliament, to resolve our issues and offer them our hearts for a changed world for the future.