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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 11723

Address at the Presentation of the final report to Federal Parliament by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation

Photo of Howard, John

Howard, John

Period of Service: 11/03/1996 to 03/12/2007

More information about Howard, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/12/2000

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 11723


Thank you very much. First may I acknowledge and pay respects to the Ngunnawall people, the traditional owners of the land where we meet.

Dr Evelyn Scott, Chairman of the Council for Reconciliation; Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley; the Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson; Leader of the Australian Democrats Senator Meg Lees; and may I also acknowledge the presence of Senator John Herron, the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs; and Philip Ruddock, not only the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, but also the Minister assisting me in matters relating to reconciliation; and also very appropriately I acknowledge the presence of Geoff Clark, the Chairman of ATSIC.

May I start Evelyn on behalf of everyone in wishing you a very happy birthday, a very very happy birthday indeed. And it has a special meaning because in the time that you have been Chairman of the Council you have given it dignified, inspiring, strong and always very positive leadership. And much of what has been achieved, and I'll say something of that in a moment, much of what has been achieved particularly over the last year is due to the dignified and positive leadership that you yourself have displayed.

I agree with what you had to say in your speech Evelyn. Whatever may be the debate about the form that reconciliation should take there can be no doubt that the mood of the Australian community is overwhelmingly in favour of reconciliation. It is and should be an unstoppable force and you yourself and the members of your council over the last ten years have played a very major role in bringing about a change in public attitude. You have opened doors, you've provided avenues, and you've given opportunities. And as a consequence I believe the nation has been enriched and is a better, more united nation as a consequence.

The process of reconciliation is not complete and some will argue as to whether you ever finally complete such an ambitious enterprise. But the mood and the spirit of the community in relation to reconciliation is so much better and so much stronger despite inevitably as we must acknowledge some differences not only of emphasis but also of direction. But there are so many things that unite us, and an expression that I've from time to time used in public life to speak of major challenges to the Australian nation is that the things that unite us are infinitely greater and more enduring than the things that divide us. And so it is in relation to reconciliation.

We will consider the propositions that are contained in the document. We will of course as a government consider them against the background of positions that we have stated previously. But I can assure you Evelyn, and the other members of the Council, that we will consider them in a spirit of immense good will and a desire to the maximum extent possible, given some different perspectives, to achieve the maximum level of agreement and the maximum level of harmony.

There are practical issues to be addressed in relation to reconciliation. There are also symbolic issues. Today's gathering - the morning of the last sitting of the national Parliament before the end of the ten-year legislative lifespan of the Council for Reconciliation. And you present this document to the leaders of the four recognised political parties in the national Parliament. In the presence of a gathering of people who in their different ways have tried so hard over the last ten years to make a contribution and thereby to make a difference.

Much has been achieved during the past 12 months in particular, and you Evelyn in your very gracious speech have drawn attention to it. I can assure you that reconciliation will, not withstanding the expiry of the Council's legislative remit, remain a major focus of the Government.

It is the intention of the Government so that the momentum towards reconciliation and the reconciliation process is not lost to contribute a sum of $5.5 million seed funding to the Council's successor body - Reconciliation Australia. I'm also pleased to announce that from today donations and contributions to that trust, that foundation, will be fully tax deductible.

Many of you will be aware ladies and gentlemen, that last May I announced that it was the intention of the Government to set aside in the Parliamentary Triangle here in the National Capital a site to honour the importance of reconciliation in the nation's life. And I'm very pleased to announce that the site for what will be known as 'Reconciliation Place' will be located on the East West Promenade in the Parliamentary zone. The site will link the National Library of Australia and the National Science and Technology Centre on one side to the High Court of Australia and the National Gallery on the other.

And so we will have in a symbolic sense in the centre of the nation's political life and national life we will have an area set aside to perpetuate in the minds of Australian public the importance of the reconciliation process. And the construct of Reconciliation Place will of course recognise the shared journey between the different peoples of the Australian nation, and will include a memorial and depiction of the removal of children from their families as part of the very difficult and traumatic experience of the indigenous people of this community.

The last thing I want to say my friends, is that we are coming to the end of the year, we're coming to the end of ten year legislative span of the council. And this breakfast brings together so many people who've played a role in that. And whatever may be our different perspectives and the different views we might hold as to how to achieve our goals, I believe it can be said with total sincerity and total accuracy that there is, within the Australian community, a great level of good will towards the indigenous people of our nation; a determination whatever our political perspectives may be to honour in a sensitive and understanding way the special place that they will always occupy in the life of this nation and a determination to bring about those changes in the circumstances of their education, their health, their employment and their housing opportunities that will enable this country in the fullness of time to say that in relation to each of their citizens and to each of the groups that make up the Australian community that all are receiving a fair go; that all are sharing in the Australian dream and all are in every sense of the word fully and equally part of the great Australian Nation.

I thank you Evelyn and I thank your council for its work and what it has done in a great and important cause.



Transcript 11723