National Sorry Day Speech

Ms SANDELL (Melbourne) (By leave) — I too rise to acknowledge and celebrate the generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have lived on this land and continue to live on this land as custodians of this remarkable country, and who now share their traditional knowledge and ancient culture with the people who have come from all over the world to live in Australia. I rise to acknowledge that the sovereignty of this land was never ceded and that we still have much to do to right the wrongs that were done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to work towards justice. I rise today, on National Sorry Day, to say on behalf of the Victorian Greens: we are sorry. I am sorry. We acknowledge the terrible atrocities and injustices done to Aboriginal people by our forefathers and acknowledge that many injustices continue to be perpetrated today.

An apology will not undo the past, but National Sorry Day can remind us that we all have a responsibility to work every day for justice. Reconciliation is an ongoing and daily task, but one that we must be fully committed to, regardless of the challenges that it mounts. It should be founded on the principles of respect, justice and autonomy for Aboriginal people and not about decreeing the ways communities should run or how people should live. We need to work with Aboriginal communities to achieve self-determination and meaningful participation in decision-making, to sustain communities and culture and to protect heritage.

Unfortunately Australia is still a way off from achieving that, and in some ways we are going backwards. But I hope that today, on this National Sorry Day, Australians will use this opportunity to take a look at themselves, to challenge the current treatment of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and to challenge the current policies and attitudes that lead to mistreatment, racism and inequality so that we do not need to look back in future years and make further apologies for our own actions today. Justice and reconciliation will not be easy, but we must commit ourselves — and recommit ourselves — to achieving them if we genuinely mean it when we say we are sorry.

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