When we commit to working together, we can have some really positive outcomes

16 June 2020

THE SENATE PROOF ADJOURNMENT Northern Territory: Indigenous Australians SPEECH Tuesday, 16 June 2020

I'd like to raise in the Senate the importance of the work of the Northern Territory government in terms of the restrictions across the Northern Territory in relation to COVID-19 and commend the Chief Minister and the cabinet for their handling of what has been an incredibly difficult time. Just recently we've seen the people of the Northern Territory who live beyond the capital city, Darwin, and the Palmerston region have their restrictions removed, so internal travel around the Northern Territory has been quite significant.

I thank the people in all those areas, in all those communities across the Northern Territory, for their diligence in making sure that these concerns around COVID-19 were followed, were adhered to. Many traditional owners, family clan groups, community members, went home, went on country, and just waited until it was the appropriate time to travel again throughout the NT. It was difficult for people to not be able to get to Katherine or Alice Springs, but we did see in recent weeks, with the removal of those intra-Territory restrictions, that our communities are now able to engage right across the Territory.

On the weekend there were around 1,000 people, perhaps more, who then gathered in Darwin to raise their concerns about the high incarceration rates of First Nations people in Australia but also to call on governmentsnot just the Northern Territory government, not just other state governments, but also the federal governmentto realise that this issue, the issue where so many First Nations people are being incarcerated at an enormous rate when we are only three per cent of the population, must be brought to the forefront of the federal government's agenda.

I reiterate my call that the Prime Minister, through the national cabinet, can make this an absolute priority. We have witnessed, through the work done on that national cabinet, the ability of our country to engage in the concerns around COVID-19 and to do so in a united way. We can do the same with issues that are impacting and affecting hundreds of thousands of Australian who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to express their deep passion, their heartfelt views, in terms of the deaths in custody of over 400 people437and the fact that there has not been anyone convicted or charged on those occasions.

It is a difficult time in our country's history. But as political leaders that's what we're here for. It's to deal with the complex and difficult times as much as the good times. We're not here to demonise the views of others, and we should not do that. We must always rise higher than that, especially here in this Senate, especially over there in the other house. We must do everything we can to make sure that we are not inflaming the division or even hatred at a time when people desperately need strong leadership. It's not about always agreeing, but it is about always trying to work together to find a common goal, a common road.

So I say to the people of the Northern Territory, those who marched the streets of Darwin city, on Larrakia country, on the weekend, to the organisers, to the young Larrakia women who led the way: thank you. Thank you for your passion, your vision. Thank you for working with the Northern Territory police to ensure that this was a safely held march and rally, and thank you to the Northern Territory police for your support. Thank you to the Chief Medical Officer and to the Northern Territory government for rising above what they could see was causing division across the country. When you do work together, when you commit to working together, you can have some really positive outcomes.

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