House debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018


Sydney Electorate: Redfern

7:30 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

One of the great privileges of being the member for Sydney is representing the wonderful community of Redfern. Redfern is a suburb that's changed a lot over the years, but it is and has been for a long time the home of a thriving First Nations community. There's not just one mob in Redfern but representatives of many nations from around New South Wales and around Australia. The suburb first attracted Indigenous people from all over New South Wales to work in the factories and the railway workshops that were there in the 19th century. The connections that were formed across First Nations peoples—across tribes, across language groups—became the basis for a strong political movement.

Redfern locals attended a day of mourning and protest in 1938 to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet. In 1944, the Redfern All Blacks were formed by Aboriginal players who could not get a run with the other clubs in the local south Sydney district junior competition. It was in Redfern that the first Aboriginal-controlled community organisations were established—the first medical service, the first legal service and the first housing company. In 1972, four young men left Redfern for Canberra to set up a beach umbrella on the lawns opposite what is now Old Parliament House, founding the Tent Embassy. The Coloured Diggers march that started in Redfern saw, in 2017, First Nations service personnel and veterans leading the Anzac Day march here in Canberra—again, a movement that was started in my suburb of Redfern. The Babana Aboriginal Men's Group uses positive values of traditional Aboriginal culture to help men address a range of issues like men's health, family relationships, antiviolence, anti-drug and alcohol campaigns and post-release programs. The Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation uses Aboriginal culture to provide employment skills and promote economic and social stability within the Redfern community. The relationship between these organisations and the local police area command has been fantastic and incredibly successful under the previous commander, Luke Freudenstein, and no doubt will be under his successor as well.

I'm so very proud to represent this community that has produced generations of activists who have changed the course of this country, and that's why I think it's a very good time to start to have a conversation not just in Redfern but around Australia about whether we should have a cultural centre, a museum, celebrating the contribution of First Nations people—the history, the culture, the art. Of course, this has to be led by local people in the Redfern community, including the traditional custodians of the land, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. But of course it must include a much broader collection of people too.

Washington DC has the National Museum of the American Indian and Canada has its First Peoples Hall. In my view, we should have something similar in this country to tell the story of more than 60,000 years of continuous history and culture: the stories of the Dreaming; a place that would preserve and teach hundreds of First Nations languages; to tell the recent stories of the frontier wars and the massacres, the long and continuing struggle for land rights, the Wave Hill walk off, Mabo and Wik; to tell the story of the world's oldest continuing culture—its art, language, dancing, music and spirituality; to celebrate First Nations leaders across our country in their communities, in politics, in arts, in business and in sport; to celebrate their successes. It could be a place of pilgrimage for all of those who count First Nations people among their ancestors. It'd be a terrific educational resource for schoolchildren and students of any age, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, from all around our country. Such a centre would ensure that the real history of this country is taught—not a black-armband version of history but not a whitewash either; a truthful acknowledgement of the role that those of us with non-Indigenous heritage played in the position of continuing disadvantage that so many First Nations people still suffer now. It'd be an international tourist destination that could provide employment for the local community. Of course the planning and campaign has to be led by the local community, but I'd love to work with them on that.