Opinion Pieces

Senator Andrew Bragg | Remarks at Launch of Buraadja

In our acknowledgement of the traditional custodians of the land, we embrace Indigenous culture into modern Australia. 

We should have been doing this from the outset. I wish we had.

Things could have been different. But we are where we are. 

Today I have an opportunity to thank Ms Rachel Perkins for her advocacy and that of her family over many decades. Rachel is a great leader. I am humbled to collaborate with her. 

Rachel has told the stories about Indigenous people that help us better understand the full picture of Australia’s past. Her landmark First Australians documentary should be compulsory viewing for people wanting to understand the disastrous policies of the past. 

Rachel’s serious contribution to nation building through her 2019 Boyer Lectures will stand the test of time. 

We must take heed of Rachel’s work and break the cycle. Rachel and many other Indigenous people have made their contributions, now it is up to us to do our part.

That is what Buraadja is all about. It’s about working together, tomorrow. 

This book is a downpayment on the commitment in my First Speech in the Senate to work on reconciliation. Until we make good with Indigenous people, Australia will be incomplete. 

The book does three things.

  1. It sets out the contribution of Australian liberalism to Indigenous affairs. A limited understanding of the work of the past limits our ambition in the present. The creation of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies, the 1967 referendum and land rights legislation have been largely lost to the Liberal tradition. We must remember Neville Bonner and Bill Wentworth. 
  2. It assesses the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I conclude we should have a Voice to Parliament anchored in the constitution, we should promote truth telling in order to close the “Great Australian Silence”. 
  3. It offers a suite of options to address the valid concern that Australia does not do enough to incorporate Indigenous culture into our national life. We should establish a new national public holiday on 27 January, we should establish a national Indigenous institution in the Parliamentary Triangle.

I am personally committed to a national reconciliation which contains the Uluru Statement from the Heart at its core. 

The Voice to Parliament should be adopted and a constitutional guarantee provided. We must be open about our history and we are all the poorer for failing to embrace Indigenous culture - the ancient culture of this land. 

We cannot afford for the Uluru Statement from the Heart to go the way of the 1963 Bark Petitions or the 1988 Barunga Statement. We should make a commitment to hold a referendum in the next Parliament after the co-design process is completed. 

I want to thank the editor Damien Freeman for his amazing work as well the Australian Catholic University and its Vice Chancellor Zlatko Skrbis and head of the PM Glynn Institute Michael Casey. Thanks also to Sean Gordon, the chairman of Uphold & Recognise and fellow director Theresa Ardler who provided the welcome to country today.

The book wouldn’t have been possible without a name or without its magnificent artwork. I acknowledge and thank the Yuin elders who provided their consent for me to use the Dhuga language in the book as well as Craig Ritchie and his team at AIATSIS for their outstanding support. Thanks also to Karen Gibson who created “Rainy Day Fishing” on the cover. It is magnificent.  

I will measure the success of this book based on the conversion of liberals and conservatives to the cause. I believe the Uluru Statement from the Heart contains deeply liberal concepts and it was misunderstood; we have an opportunity to repair the damage.

Our time is now. This generation can deliver a substantial reconciliation and we must. It will set us all free. This is above and beyond politics. But we must move beyond the talking points to get it done. 

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