NAIDOC WEEK

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:50):  I want to start my contribution today by acknowledging the First Nations people of this country and, in particular, the original owners and custodians of the land on which this parliament meets and the original owners and ongoing custodians of the land that encompasses my electorate, around Wollongong. They are owed our acknowledgement and respect, in particular because this is NAIDOC Week. In my electorate, there are many, many people and organisations taking the opportunity to acknowledge and pay respect to our First Nations people. Of course, NAIDOC Week is normally earlier in the year but, due to the COVID pandemic, we have seen it moved to this week.

I personally and on behalf of many of my local constituents want to acknowledge the extraordinary value of the current leaders of the Indigenous community in our area. We see their amazing welcome to country at so many events that we attend, where I always learn something new about the Dreamtime stories of my own local area and the ongoing custodianship and connection to land that the Aboriginal people from our area feel. There is always a generous and heartfelt welcome extended. Given that the history has been so fraught and so negative for our First Nations people, that generosity and willingness to share their expertise and their knowledge with the rest of us is an invaluable asset in all of our communities and should be acknowledged.

I spoke in this House earlier in the year after the bushfires that we experienced over the last summer. Many of us recognise—and I am glad that this has been across the board—that, if we listen more closely to Indigenous Australians about the management of land, we could learn an awful lot about better managing the fire risk in this nation. I am pleased that that view is now much more mainstream and people are really starting to engage with First Nations people.

I want to finish by saying that, as part of this, I believe that we do need to pay respect to the Uluru Statement from the Heart; we do need to support a constitutionally recognised voice to parliament; we do need a treaty; and we do need truth-telling. I think we would all be stronger for taking that next step, called for by our First Nations people, coming together and giving honest feedback to the nation about how they see the way forward. I reaffirm my own commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Happy NAIDOC Week everyone.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.