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Pathway to Reconciliation

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 25 November 2021

Tags: Tasmanian Aboriginals, Treaty

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I, too, pay my respects to Tasmania's First People. To Aboriginal Elders past, present and emerging, I pay my deepest respects. I acknowledge the warriors who fought for this country when the English arrived and I acknowledge the warriors in the Aboriginal community who continue to fight for this country today.

We are standing on country that was taken at the point of a gun, an island that was never ceded by its true owners. What we are dealing with here is 218 years of violence, dispossession and despair. I acknowledge that Tasmania's Aboriginal people have endured dispossession and violence and they are strong in their culture and identity. I acknowledge the members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community who we are privileged to have here with us on this significant day.

I thank Professor Kate Warner and Professor Tim McCormack for the heart and soul that they put into this work. I thank the Premier for starting this hugely important process towards truth telling and treaty. We would not be standing here if the Premier had not done the right thing and recognised that there are wounds that have not healed. These wounds profoundly affect Aboriginal people, but it is a stain on all our collective souls.

The path to true reconciliation is a path that we must all walk together for healing. I note that in this House right now, there is not one member of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community as a representative in this place. This place is full of, as they say in palawa kani, raytji, we are white fellas and white women. Part of true reconciliation, truth telling, treaty and justice must be to ensure we have Aboriginal representation in the Tasmanian Parliament.

In the soil of this beautiful island, lutruwita, Tasmania, are the bones and stories of countless generations. It is very hard if you are not an Aboriginal Tasmanian to conceive of how deep the connection is to this country. To Aboriginal people, the bones and the stories of the old people are part of this country and we can learn a lot from Aboriginal Tasmanians in this difficult climate-constrained century about how to better look after this beautiful island. That too needs to be part of reconciliation. We need to be prepared to hear hard truths and as raytji we need to sit and listen and commit to acting.

I will briefly touch on the 1831 agreement between Robinson and Mannalargenna that saw Aboriginal people, who had been at that point subject to persecution, who were hunted, chased off their lands at the point of a musket, on Robinson's promise, downed their weapons and went to the islands. They believed a white man when he told them they could come back on their country and that was a betrayal. We, as a parliament, need to acknowledge that betrayal as part of moving towards treaty.

No more broken promises, Mr Speaker. No more false hope for this island's true owners. We now have a signpost to truth telling and treaty and I believe we have a collective will in this parliament to walk together with Aboriginal Tasmanians to heal some of those multi generational and terrible wounds. We need to return lands. It has been some 16 years since land was returned to the first people of this island.

On behalf of the Tasmanian Greens, I wholly recommit to working cooperatively with Aboriginal people and across this parliament towards true reconciliation and healing, truth, treaty, justice, the return of lands and changing the date of our national day from 26 January which, as we know, nationally is the day Aboriginal Australians lost their country.

This is a very important first step in the report that we have been handed by Professors McCormack and Warner. We have a pathway to truth telling and treaty and it is a pathway we need to walk together with open hearts and genuine commitment. Thank you again, Premier, for making this happen and I also commend the report to the House.