National Reconciliation Week celebrations will occur across the country from this Thursday, 27 May, until Thursday, 3 June. These two dates hold particular significance for Indigenous Australians. On 27 May 1967, the referendum was held in which over 90 per cent of Australians voted to remove sections of our constitution which discriminated against Aboriginal people. Further, 3 June marks the anniversary of the 1992 judgment in the Mabo case.
Last weekend also marked the AFL Indigenous round. In 2010 Indigenous players make up over 10 per cent of all players in the AFL. The AFL should be commended for its planned Indigenous employment strategy which looks to work in partnership with the Indigenous community to improve the quality of life in Indigenous communities around Australia.
The AFL Indigenous round celebrates the achievements and contributions of Indigenous people to the AFL and the community in general. The main event of this round was ‘Dreamtime at the G’ on Saturday night in front of 60,000 people. One of our staff members went across to the game and said it was a fantastic cultural experience. This game has certainly now become important in the AFL calendar. Port Adelaide and Melbourne also played out a magnificent match in Darwin, which was a great celebration of what Indigenous players bring to our game. We saw a fast and exciting game of footy played in trying conditions. Unfortunately, should you be a Port fan it was a heartbreaking loss.
On Sunday, Adelaide took on Brisbane, and it was tremendous to see a talented young Indigenous player, Jared Petrenko, toss a coin for Adelaide and captain the side to a courageous victory. Well done to Simon Goodwin for passing on that special honour to recognise the AFL’s Indigenous round. I also take this opportunity to congratulate that particular player on his many dedicated years of service to one of the best football clubs in the land, the Adelaide footy club, now that he has announced his retirement at season’s end.
Reconciliation Week will be observed across the state by a variety of activities, from the Blue Lake Walk for Reconciliation in Mount Gambier to the Ceduna Indigenous Coordination Centre, and there will be many other events in and around Adelaide. On Friday, I will attend a remembrance ceremony for Indigenous veterans, and this is a chance to honour and remember the service of those countless veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for Australia. The Aboriginal Veterans Commemorative Service Committee has asked that in lieu of wreaths books be donated for Aboriginal school libraries. In 2009, 36 books were donated to the libraries at Port Victoria and Augusta Park primary schools.
Also this Friday the City of Adelaide will host Reconciliation Down Rundle. The event is intended as a chance to show the depth and diversity of Indigenous cultures across the country. It will give the people of Adelaide a chance to learn about the history of Australia’s first inhabitants and provide information about opportunities to experience Indigenous culture firsthand.
Yesterday, I attended the graduation ceremony for students of Tauondi College in Port Adelaide; 62 students received qualifications, and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, the Hon. Grace Portolesi, spoke. It is heartening to see a group of Indigenous students, both young and not so young, taking charge of their future. Many students of the centre arrive with only basic literacy and numeracy skills. ‘Tauondi’ means to penetrate and break through, which is just what these students have done, and I offer my sincere congratulations.
Although we have come a long way and there are many positive signs, we must not lose sight of the fact that there is still much to be done in areas such as Indigenous health, education and employment. On the opening day of parliament, I asked a question about the government’s response to the mining super tax and its impact on Indigenous communities. The minister’s response was lacking in detail, and it is clear that this government has no clear strategy to protect Indigenous communities from this great big new tax.
On matters of education and health, in some remote areas as many as 70 per cent of Indigenous children do not attend school regularly, and the average life expectancy of Indigenous people is about 20 years shorter than that of other Australians. We must all work together towards better outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
This morning, I attended a Blue and Gold Society—which is part of Girl Guides Australia—breakfast, where I was extremely fortunate to hear a presentation by Ms Leanne Liddle, and I came away incredibly inspired. Ms Liddle oversees a program called Kuka Kanyini, which relates to managing country, conserving biodiversity, maintaining culture, providing employment and training, and improving the diet of remote communities. This program was initiated in 2003 as a pilot around the remote community of Watarru in the far north-west Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands.
I have been fortunate enough to visit the Watarru community with the Aboriginal Lands Standing Committee, and it all made sense to me today why this community really looks like it is travelling particularly well. I pay tribute to Leanne Liddle from the Department for Environment and Heritage, and I will certainly watch her career with a great deal of interest.