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Veterans’ Affairs – First Nations Veterans

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Tags: Veterans, Tasmanian Aboriginals, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, in previous Veterans Estimates we've had some interesting discussions about First Nations veterans and the Frontier Wars here that happened in the early to mid-1800s and the enormous loss of life and how bravely Aboriginal Tasmanians fought for this land but have also contributed to our armed services since then. Have given any more thought to an appropriate memorial or acknowledgement to First Nations veterans, past and present?

Mr BARNETT - Thank you for the question. Having had ongoing engagement and consultation with RSL Tasmania and a range of organisations, I can advise that Reconciliation Tasmania and Aboriginal Tasmanians marched in the 2023 Hobart parade. RSL Tasmania are responsible for the Anzac Day parade and main services on behalf of the Hobart City Council and their various sub-branches around the state.

I am also aware that Aboriginal people, with support from Reconciliation Tasmania, have highlighted the colonial Tasmanian frontier wars where many Aboriginal men and women died fighting for their country. The service and sacrifice of our Aboriginal and non Aboriginal servicemen and women should rightly be remembered at Anzac Day and other commemorative events. I have made that clear in past years and in past forums.

I am also aware of Reconciliation Tasmania's proposal for a complex memorial in and around the precinct of the Cenotaph in Hobart. I note the work of the late Auntie Wendal Pitchford, who was one of the instigators and the key driver of the project. The proposed memorial is a matter for the Hobart City Council and RSL Tasmania.

I am also aware of the Soldiers Memorial walk views and openness to a memorial in and around the Soldiers Memorial walk are of the Domain.

Ms O'CONNOR - Are you facilitating or - ?

Mr BARNETT - I am not familiar with the exact area, I know their openness to that and that is a matter for them. I am happy to be consulted and get feedback from either Reconciliation Tasmania or other Aboriginal organisations. Clearly, my main focus is to represent our 17 500 veterans and their families and to represent their interests.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Minister. We first had this conversation at the Estimates table five or six years ago and as a consequence you, I think - I hope - read Professor Henry Reynolds's book Fate of a Free People after the discussion we had about the courage of the First Nations warriors. It sounds to me like you are taking a quite passive approach to this issue when you have the connections - Friends of Soldiers Walk, RSL, a lot of goodwill, Reconciliation Tasmania - you could take a slightly stronger leadership role to help something like this happen.

Mr BARNETT - The leadership role should come from RSL Tasmania and the ex service organisations, having been to the Boer War ceremony in Launceston just two Sundays ago, a war which was in 1899-1902, and wonderful service it was.

Ms O'CONNOR - A disgraceful war. A genocidally cruel and disgraceful war.

Mr BARNETT - Tasmanians served and Alastair Cameron gave an excellent presentation with the RSL band and the like. Many of our colleagues were there, including Mr Wood and other members of state parliament.

Ms O'CONNOR - The first concentration camps in the Boer War.

Mr BARNETT - I would prefer the various veteran groups to take a leadership role in that regard. I am always happy to be consulted, I have been consulted, I have met with Reconciliation Tasmania in the past.

Ms O'CONNOR - In relation to this matter?

Mr BARNETT - In relation to this and related matters, yes.