House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Constituency Statements

Closing the Gap, Mullins, Mr Joe

10:24 am

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Recently I joined a variety of representatives from Canberra Indigenous organisations for a Closing the Gap forum with Linda Burney MP. I would like to thank everyone that attended, including representatives from the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body, Winnunga Aboriginal health and community services, Yeddung Mura and individual participants with expertise in Indigenous affairs. Firstly, I would like to acknowledge that the new agreement is an important achievement by the Coalition of Peaks, and Labor welcome the new targets that are now much broader in scope. As noted at the forum, the fact that we now have justice targets is vital. There are more First Nations people incarcerated now than when the royal commission was completed way back in 1991. The ACT, unfortunately, is no exception. Indigenous imprisonment increased by 279 per cent between 2009 and 2019, more than any other state or territory. An Indigenous person is 18.9 times more likely to be imprisoned than a non-Indigenous person, and 90 per cent of Indigenous detainees had a prior history of incarceration. Labor will commit to reaching the new targets at a national and local level. However, targets are only part of the story. There are no details about how the Morrison government will support organisations to achieve these targets. Targets must be backed by funding, action and accountability. The targets should also be accompanied by greater autonomy in the political domain. As Labor have said, we are also committed to the Uluru statement in its entirety, including truth-telling, treaty-making and a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament.

This year marks 75 years since the end of the Second World War. It also marks another significant milestone—the 100th birthday of Joe Mullins, a decorated World War II veteran, who now resides in the electorate of Bean. Joe's time in Myanmar as a British soldier in the final weeks of World War II is a remarkable story. When Joe was 25, he was shot at three times by a Japanese sniper. The first two pierced his steel helmet and exited out the back. The third deflected off his helmet. Due to the chaos of the battle, Joe was unaware of what had happened. It was only after the Japanese had retreated that he noticed the damage to his helmet. Astonishingly, Joe escaped the battle with only a scratch less than an inch long. However, non-combative injuries eventually caught up with Joe, and he was hospitalised for eight weeks after leech bites went septic. After recovering and after his service was complete, Joe was awarded the Military Cross for his courage in the battle. In 1974 he arrived in Canberra with his wife and six children. Joe's story is a stark example of many such stories in World War II, and I'm honoured to be catching up with Joe and his family in coming days.