SPEECH: Remarks at the Launch of the Family Matters

November 29, 2017

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners, the Ngunnawal and the Ngambri people, whose lands we are on this morning.

I also wanted to acknowledge SNAICC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care), and all the work that you are doing to bring to all Australians the importance of this human story, very real story.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was just crying then when Barbara was telling her story because unfortunately it’s too real and happens way too often.

I think every First Nations person’s in this country has their story to tell in relation to our families.

I wanted to talk to you from a very personal level in terms of what we are trying to do as Federal Labor. And I do acknowledge that I do accept this report on behalf of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and the Labor Family. I also acknowledge my fellow senators who are here as well, Senator Pratt and Senator Lines from WA, Senator Moore from Queensland and from the Greens Senator Siewert. And I acknowledge other members who are here that I have not had a chance to see yet.

In the parliament this week as you know we are debating same-sex marriage. And it’s only the Senate is sitting and as the debate goes on there are many amendments about how children are brought up. I sit and listen to that debate and much of that rings really hollow because if we are really worried about children, there are many children out there that need our attention.

And those children are the ones who are wondering what their future is in this country. Wondering if this country if this country loves them and wondering if they have a future beyond growing up behind bars, going on renal dialysis, going into hospital, going into homeless shelters.

We have to ask ourselves as Australians what future we want for all out children. That’s what today’s report is about. As a nation of all these First Nations and all of those that have come across the seas, what is the future we want for all our children? Can we be so selfless, to look at what we are doing to our children? When I sit and listen to the debates. These are the questions that I ask.

This week we’ve also had to fill out our forms for citizenship. Let me tell you about my personal experience with that. We have Senators who are leaving the Senate as a result of being dual citizens. I sit there and watch that.

I am a Yanyuwa Garawa woman from First Nations. I have never ceded sovereignty as a Yanyuwa Garawa woman, so I sit and watch this and I think and then I go fill out a form that all politician shave to fill out this week. “Where was your grandmother born? What year? Where was your mother born? What year? Where was your grandfather born? What year?” - I don’t know. Why don’t I know? Why don’t I know?  Because the policies of the day, the policies of the day didn’t allow birth certificates for my grandparents on my mother’s side for the Yanyuwa and Garawa people, I don’t know what year they were born, I can guess, and as to where they were born, they were born out bush on Yanyuwa and Garawa country. But I can’t show you that certificate because Australian laws at the time didn’t consider us important enough.

As policymakers we sit in the parliament and we have to make a difference as policymakers because each of you who work with all your heart, and faith and determination need to know that we at this level, we as political leaders, Federally and in each state and Territory jurisdiction are also moving in synchronicity with the spirit of this country, which must embrace a much better future for our children and for all children.

So I am going to take this snapshot and I am going to hold it up, every time when we are talking in the Senate and I am going to certainly, along with Senator Pat Dodson, along with Linda Burney and all those that work, the Federal Labor Caucus, in particular in the First Nations Caucus to constantly remind this parliament that we have to act, and must act now to make sure that it’s not just our voices that it’s the voice of all our young Australians.

 

Thank you