Senate debates

Monday, 13 November 2017

Regulations and Determinations

Citizenship (Authorisation) Revocation and Authorisation Instrument 2017, Citizenship (Authorisation) Revocation and Authorisation Amendment Instrument 2017; Disallowance

6:21 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Before speaking to this disallowance motion, I would first like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet—the Ngunnawal peoples. It is upon their ancestral lands that this parliament is built, and I believe every occupant of this chamber would do well to remember that in all that they do.

I would also like to acknowledge and recognise that 26 January is a day of mourning for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and that the Greens support them in their call for the date of Australia Day to be changed. We in the Greens recognise this call; however, I am sorry to say that this chamber and the other place do not. It is also the case that our states and territories of Australia also do not at this point recognise that call, so it has been left to local governments to act in this space and to show the leadership which is so sadly lacking in so many of our other democratic institutions.

I am proud to say, as a senator from Western Australia, that it was in fact the City of Fremantle which first put this on the national agenda last year when they, as a community, consulted with the Whadjuk people, who are the traditional owners of that area, and decided that they would take the first national step in bringing attention to the fact that 26 January is not viewed by our traditional owners as a day upon which you can simply kick back and have a beer and that it is in fact a day on which it is remembered that these lands, which we call our own, were and remain the lands of others, that they were forcibly taken and that dispossession and murder were commonplace and formed the foundation of this country.

I am very sad to see that Senator Cormann has decided to suggest that any council which seeks to recognise this reality of our history is in fact playing politics in an area where politics does not belong. I would caution anybody on either side of this chamber from making such an argument. I would ask them to reflect deeply upon the company in which they are placing themselves when they suggest that this is something which should not and cannot be done. It was once—and in this place and in others and at other points in time—suggested that it could not be done in relation to leaving Aboriginal children with their parents. It was once suggested that there could not and should not be reconciliation processes in this country. It is, sadly, still suggested that there is no place for a dedicated voice of our first nations people in this chamber. But, as we have seen, and as history shows with those first two examples, such views prove themselves not to last well in the stark sunlight of history. Movements rose up and said no. They said no to segregation. They said no to a nonexistence in terms of voting rights. They said no to the stealing of children. And they said no to the hiding of that reality.

Today, I take my seat in a chamber which was opened alongside the traditional owners of this place, and Senator Bartlett is right to note that it is only recently that this has become the case. I do not believe it will be too long before we look back upon discussions such as this and think to ourselves: how could we ever have suggested that a day which has only been a national holiday since the year in which I was born, 1994, should be held as such a sacred moment of national unity that it should be continued with at the expense of our first nations people and their profound traumatic experiences.

I speak to this motion as a proud Western Australian, as a proud member of the Australian Greens and as someone who hopes to see a little more leadership in this place in the future. Thank you.

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