THE HON. BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS & ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
ADDRESS TO THE BARUNGA FESTIVAL OPENING CEREMONY
BARUNGA, NORTHERN TERRITORY
SATURDAY, 9 JUNE 2018
I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
It’s true everywhere on this mighty continent but no more so than here and now: this is, was and always will be Aboriginal land.
I also want to acknowledge, amongst all of the distinguished guests, including Nigel Scullion, I want to acknowledge all the leaders and the Land Council members.
Not just now but those who were here 30 years ago making such significant decisions. And we should remember those who have passed between then and now.
I thank the Bagala mob for having us on their land.
I also want to acknowledge members of the Stolen Generations who are here with us.
And to you, I wish to reiterate the commitment of my party that if we are elected we will provide overdue compensation to the remaining survivors of the Stolen Generations here in the Northern Territory and everywhere else in Australia.
Thirty years ago, the Barunga Statement was made. It was only 327 words but they were powerful.
But let me acknowledge that in the intervening 30 years not enough of the words, or the spirit, have been kept.
I’m embarrassed the Barunga Statement hangs on a wall in Parliament House and too many members of parliament wouldn’t even know it was there. And too many walk past it, their eyes looking the other way.
But I’m not here today to talk about failure, I want to add words of hope.
When I see and meet the elders and the leaders of the Land Councils, I see hope.
When I see Senator Pat Dodson, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Linda Burney – first Australians in the Parliament – I see hope.
When I see so many of you here, here for the music and the sport, here to listen and to learn, I see hope.
Yesterday at Katherine High School, remarkable young teenage girls from the Stars Foundation, I saw hope. Remarkable young Aboriginal boys, teenagers at the Clontarf Foundation, I see hope.
I see hope but I also acknowledge there is unfinished business.
Not unfinished business here but unfinished business across our nation. We have not come far enough.
We need to reset the relationship between our first Australians and all other Australians, we need to change the way we do business.
Not until we are a reconciled nation can any of us help fulfil the destiny this nation has.
We need to change the way we talk to each other and act to each other.
I see that we need to use honour, equality, respect and recognition.
For me coming here is a privilege but it is also a reminder. We need to take the Barunga Statement and use it as a map on our journey to deliver a voice for our first Australians in the parliament and in the constitution.
We need to work towards a Makarrata Commission, a truth-telling commission.
Because until our communities can reconcile a joint narrative about the history of this country, we cannot truly be reconciled.
And we also need to make clear that if we can establish a Voice for our first Australians – the decisions made about them are made with them and by them.
This is not a radical concept. It is nothing less than we should expect in any other circumstances.
We should not be afraid either, of the using our voice and the voice of first Australians to talk about treaties and agreement-making between our first Australians and levels of government within Australia.
I believe that Australians have the goodwill to reconcile this country. What they don’t have is the leadership in this country to drive proper and meaningful reconciliation.
I say to the people who fear the concepts of agreement-making, of a Voice, of treaties.
I say to these people who fear this: you have nothing to lose.
You still will be able to play football on the MCG, your backyard hills-hoists will not be part of any claim, the chickens will still lay eggs.
We are not giving a special deal to our first Australians – because they don’t get a special deal in our country.
A famous man once said, it’s all very well that to say that you lift yourself up by your bootstraps but if you don’t own a pair of boots, you’re not starting from the same position.
So I regard the spirit of Barunga as a reminder to trust the better angels of the nature of the Australian people, to recognise that we can’t honour our country unless we honour our first Australians.
Unless we recognise and respect and have equality this nation will not be the country it should be when – because of the colour of your skin – your life expectancy, your access to healthcare, your educational opportunity, your access to housing and to justice are discriminated against.
So I understand very keenly not just the obligation here but the obligation elsewhere for leadership and I thank you very much for inviting me to be part of this great festival today.
Have a lovely afternoon.