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National Reconciliation Week Breakfast Speech - 26 May 2022

By Craig Crawford MP, Minister for Seniors and Disability Services and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships. 

"I’m honoured to join you today for the launch of National Reconciliation Week 2022. This week shines a light on the important work being done to advance reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous peoples.


The work of reconciliation is ongoing - it lives in our collective hearts, minds, and spirit. It requires action from all of us, every day, in school, sport, business, and government.


By reflecting on the journey so far, we can look ahead to the future, and recommit to actions that will bring about real and lasting change. Change that will create a more equitable Queensland, where every person is valued, cultures are nurtured, and a society built on justice, unity and respect.


Today is also National Sorry Day, where we acknowledge the trauma caused to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities by the forced removal of their children, and dispossession of their lands. I want to pay tribute to the enduring strength of Stolen Generation survivors.


As I speak to you today, let three words ring out; Voice. Treaty. Truth.


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s acceptance speech on Saturday opened with a full commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It was the first victory speech by a PM to put First Nations Peoples central to federal government policy.


The first of three steps set out in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart was Voice. The other two are truth-telling and treaty.


This moment in time is exciting for First Nations and non-Indigenous people – momentum is building. As we meet here today on this land, we meet at a turning point in our shared history – a history that has not always been voiced truthfully.


Last week I visited the 1200-strong Aboriginal community of Kowanyama on Western Cape York, 600km by road west of Cairns. There, to my absolute amazement, I was shown one of the most remarkable and iconic collections of national truth-telling and cultural significance, known as the Kowanyama collection.


Housed in an old demountable hut, are secret and sacred items, ancient spears and fighting shields, and the weapons and chains used by pastoralists and native mounted police in the frontier wars of Cape York.


In one corner, and you could feel a tangible presence in the room, were small cardboard boxes containing ancestral remains, skulls and bones, that had been repatriated from museums for burial on country.


I met 84-year-old Olkola elder Hazel Barr who told of the living memory in her tribe of the massacre of almost an entire camp of women and children at Emu Lagoon. It was a reminder the frontier wars are not that distant in the past.


Reconciliation is about unpacking the truth of our history and writing a new future for our state. A future where Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and non-Indigenous peoples work in partnership, with mutual respect – as equals.


The theme of this year’s National Reconciliation Week challenges us to “be brave and make change”. Tomorrow (May 27) is the 55th anniversary of the 1967 referendum which legally recognised the First Peoples of these lands for the first time. That recognition came about following years of campaigning by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and advocacy groups.


Today, we are working toward new milestones on the journey toward reconciliation. The Palaszczuk Government is progressing a Path to Treaty in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We are fundamentally changing the way we work with Australia’s First Nations peoples, engaging in ways based on mutual respect.


I’m encouraged that every year, hundreds of businesses, organisations and institutions are developing, extending and implementing their Reconciliation Action Plans. I encourage each and every one of you – to be brave and to make the changes in your networks, in your communities and in your families that are needed to truly reconcile the darkness of our history to ensure a brighter shared future.


In reflecting on this year’s National Reconciliation Week theme, I again want to acknowledge the courage of the change-makers who have come before us. That includes proud First Nations leaders like Eddie (Koiki) Mabo, who 30 years ago on the 3 June, successfully secured the native title rights of his people in the High Court. He was brave, he challenged us as a nation, and he created lasting change that is paving the way for those coming through.


We stand on your shoulders – you have built the foundation that supports us to make change today.


As we observe National Reconciliation Week, on behalf of the Palaszczuk Government I recommit to continuing that journey together with First Nations peoples.


And I invite every Queenslander to be part of making change in our state as we travel the Path to Treaty."

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