House debates

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008

Second Reading

12:56 pm

Photo of Damian HaleDamian Hale (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to speak on the Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008. I acknowledge the custodians of the land, past and present, on which I stand today. I also acknowledge the Larrakia people whom I represent in my electorate of Solomon. I think we were all shocked at the Little children are sacred report. It highlighted to people the problems that had occurred in Aboriginal communities over a long period. What we are proposing is a toughening of pornographic laws in relation to R-rated material. The member for Warringah’s allegations are completely wrong. The government remains strongly committed to protecting children from sexual abuse and violence. The previous government’s bans were the start, but we needed to get tougher in cracking down on the exposure of children to pornography. That is why we are expanding these bans to R-rated material. Any suggestion by those opposite that the government has watered down pornography bans implemented by the previous government is mischievous and wrong in the extreme.

The member for Kalgoorlie put out his credentials for being able to speak on Aboriginal issues. I will draw him back to something that he said last week about centralising Aboriginal communities but, before doing so, I wish to put out my credentials as a person that can speak with some authority on Aboriginal communities. When I was growing up we moved from Queensland to Maningrida. I grew up in Maningrida. We were there for a bit over 12 months before moving to Katherine, where Aboriginals are a very high proportion of the population. We moved to Darwin in about 1979. It often breaks my heart when I look at old photo albums and see people that we met at Maningrida. Mum used to point to them and say, ‘Finished one,’ ‘finished one,’ ‘finished one,’ ‘finished one,’ as she went down the page. My father taught David Gulpilil, who used to come in from Ramingining to go to school in Maningrida. It is very sad when you see that many of the boys that dad taught in year 7 are no longer with us. They died in their mid-40s, if not earlier, due to substance abuse on many occasions. My wife happens to be a Larrakia and I have five Indigenous kids living in my house—two are at Melbourne Grammar on football scholarships.

I have a great friend, Stewart O’Connell, and he actually worked on the Little children are sacred report. I remember sitting with Stewart on a plane, going down to Alice Springs, and him telling me stories of what they were finding in Aboriginal communities. I remember tears swelling in my eyes as he spoke to me about what they were finding. ‘Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle’, when translated from Aboriginal language, means ‘Little children are sacred.’ I know my five children are sacred.

Removal of permits was not part of the recommendations of that report. There were 97 recommendations and not one was about removing permits. The removal of permits was never discussed with communities during consultations. That acknowledgement comes from a man, Stewart O’Connell, a senior project officer involved in the Little children are sacred report. While the other side love to state ‘People have said this’ and ‘Reporters have said that’ and ‘This reporter said this’, here is a quote from a guy who was a senior project officer involved in the Little children are sacred report, working alongside Rex Wild.

Indigenous communities wanted and needed empowerment. With respect to consultation, the best way to find out something about an Aboriginal person is to talk to him. I note that the member for Kalgoorlie is leaving after his contribution. He talked last week about centralising, and I will touch on that before he leaves. The Aboriginal people actually belong to the land, my friend. The problems that we have in Wadeye are caused because 27 clans are centralised in Wadeye—one clan belongs there; 26 do not. An old friend of mine died last year. He was a Gurindji person. Gurindjis belong to the land. They come and pick up their Gurindji brother, take him back to their land and bury him. So, from the perspective of Aboriginal culture, centralising Aboriginal communities cannot be done.

Member for Kalgoorlie, I respect your passion for Aboriginal people, and I will not go as far as having a go at you about that. Aboriginal people fundamentally belong to the land. There was no evidence to say that the removal of permits was going to help. The member for Isaacs asked me, when he interjected previously, ‘What have the Howard government done in 10 years?’ I would like to tell the member for Isaacs what they have done. The Howard government defunded a range of important programs throughout regional and remote communities. The result of this had a negative impact on the social fabric of many of these Indigenous communities. One example was the Howard government’s withdrawal of funding from women’s centres. These centres were the glue that held a lot of these communities together. Women’s centres provided a safe haven for women and children, counselling and support services. In some communities, they provided Meals on Wheels and services for the frail and elderly. The defunding by the Howard Liberal-National government of women’s centres and other community services of over $400 million that supported women and families in regional and remote areas was criminal in its design and intent. There can be no doubt that it contributed to weakening these communities and aided those who prey on the vulnerable. Further, the ATSIC budget was slashed by over $400 million and ATSIC funded services to communities were cut. Abstudy was cut by $38 million.


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