Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Statements by Senators

Elliston: Waterloo Bay Memorial

1:52 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want the record to show that I have copious notes; I don't have a written speech, and I'm sure there's a village somewhere looking for another contributor! Anyway, I want to take you back to 5 September 2011, which is when I first had an acquaintanceship with the town of Elliston. The town of Elliston is 169 kilometres from Port Lincoln, 125 kilometres from Streaky Bay and 687 kilometres from Adelaide, for those who don't know. I'm sure Senator Fawcett's familiar with that area.

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've been the duty senator for Grey—and Senator Williams is another frequenter of that part of the world. I know that the electorate of Grey is roughly 85 per cent of the landmass of South Australia, and the local member, Rowan Ramsey, is in a continual pattern of motion to attend all of the townships, villages and events in his area. I make it my business to also do what I can to make sure he's present in as many places as possible.

Starting in September 2011, I had the opportunity of doing a BER at the Elliston Area School—Building the Education Revolution—which was much decried by those on the other side. But, when you actually move around, particularly around regional areas of South Australia, the investment is still there and is still standing. There are four classrooms and a covered shade area for a school of 60 to 70 children. The principal, Cynthia O'Neill, is still there and still delivering excellence in education with an improvement in her facilities.

The other interesting event in Elliston was the $800,000 grant that was awarded to build a 14-kilometre heritage trail along the cliffs of Elliston. For those who haven't been to that part of the world, and I'll probably put a few Victorians offside here, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria is the wrong one. The great ocean road is actually in South Australia. It's between Port Lincoln and Ceduna and beyond, and it is a great ocean. The Great Australian Bight is awe-inspiring.

My visits to Elliston have been frequent. I would not miss the opportunity to stay overnight at Elliston and catch up with the local policeman, the local publican, the local shopkeeper, the principal of the school, the Indigenous elders and any other interested party, like the chair of the local council in that area. What I've noticed over the visits that I've made is—and Senator Dodson has already very eloquently put this on the record here today—the development of this proposal within which they have come towards a monument commemorating a very unfortunate episode in our recent history.

Bill Denny, the President of the RSL in South Australia, who, incidentally, was also instrumental in getting the first commemoration of Indigenous soldiers memorial conducted, said at the ceremony on Saturday that he first heard this story 59 years ago when he was a child going to work on a station in that area. He heard that there had been an episode where Indigenous folk had been driven off a cliff. You can't put it any other way; that's essentially what happened. Indigenous folk were massacred. The chair of the Elliston council would say that he had Wirangu friends who would never stop in Elliston because there was a dark cloud on the pass. They would go to Ceduna and not stop in that area. They would not stop; literally, they would just carry through. That has simply all changed.

There is an inspiring monument on the top of those cliffs, which has been negotiated through proper process, proper consultation and proper agreement. It's part of a 14-kilometre inspiring walk. You cannot help but be moved, if you actually attend that site. When the Dusty Feet Mob, the dancers young and old from Port Augusta, performed on that site, it was probably the first time anybody had performed on that site since those awful days. As Senator Dodson said, it would bring a tear to anybody's eye and it was an absolutely inspiring moment of reconciliation and a diverse community. They laid it all on the table in their speeches—the rebels and recluses, the surfies and those who are not surfies, the greenies and the others, the farmers and all sorts—even down to the reprobates. Their community was very honest in their assessments of themselves. They came together under a strong leadership of their chairman and they put together a process which was healing and instructive for the future. As Senator Dodson has already said, it's probably a pathway forward for other areas in the Australia. It's certainly a place that I will visit again.

I don't ever go down the Hume Highway without calling into the truckies memorial at Tarcutta. If I have 10 minutes to spare, I pull off and look at the names on that list. If you're ever in this area, if you're ever travelling between Port Lincoln and Ceduna, stop at Elliston, go to the heritage trail, get the exercise, clear the cobwebs out of your head, walk up to that memorial, take in the ambience of the place, look into the ocean and realise that something very significant happened there. In some small way, this has been redressed. The recognition of what happened is truth-telling, as Senator Dodson has eloquently said here today. As a nation, we must tell the truth. I think telling the truth in this area is one of the really instructive, reformative processes that we, as a nation, can do. We can't change the past, but we can be honest about it. This local community, a community of various individuals from different sides of the political spectrum and from different sides of the economy and from different areas, all came together last Saturday. They came together and they did something very valuable and very instructive for the rest of Australia. I was extremely proud to be a part of it. I think the way that they've held themselves in such a strong way in an extremely challenging arena is very instructive for the rest of the country. I really do commend the outcome and the work that they have done.