Paul Lennon - Premier of Tasmania, Australia
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18 OCTOBER 2006

I acknowledge and pay respect to the Aboriginal owners of the land, the Aboriginal elders that are present today, members of the Stolen Generation and members of the Aboriginal Community.

I have declared that reconciliation is one of the leading social priorities for my government.

For one very important reason.

Because it’s the right thing to do.

For Tasmania to move forward to a united and strong future, we must first resolve the wrongs of the past.

Since 1998 Labor has worked with the Aboriginal community for reconciliation.

We’ve handed land back.

Last year, we saw the historic return of Cape Barren Island, and earlier this year we issued a 40-year lease for ‘larapuna’ (Eddystone Point).

But reconciliation is about more than returning land.

It’s about people.

It’s about recognising that in Tasmania’s history, Aboriginal people were dispossessed from their land, severed from their culture and taken from their families.

And it’s about saying that we’re sorry that this happened.

On the 13th August in 1997 the Tasmanian Parliament apologised to the Tasmanian Aboriginal people for the injustices and hurt experienced by members of the Stolen Generation.

The motion was supported unanimously.

I was in the Parliament on that day and I remember it well.

Annette Peardon accepted the apology on behalf of all Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Annette was joined that day by her brother Derek and Tanya Harper.

Annette’s address was moving, emotional and powerful and she received a standing ovation from the Parliament. Her speech on that day made a lasting impression on me.

Annette talked about the fear and trauma suffered by Aboriginal children who were removed from their families.

Trauma that’s not confined to the past but very real in the present lives of the members of the Stolen Generation.

During the launch of Labor’s election campaign, I pledged that, if re-elected, my Government would address the important issue of the Stolen Generation.

I am pleased to say, Annette that the day you called for on 13 August 1997 is not far away.

In my hand I have an exposure draft for legislation to be introduced to Parliament on 31 October this year.

It details my Government’s intention to provide $5 million dollars for Tasmania’s Stolen Generation.

This is an important gesture that recognises the harm experienced by Aboriginal children who lost contact with their community and culture through the active intervention of the State.

We will establish an independent process for assessing applications by members of the Stolen Generation and the children of members of the Stolen Generation who have passed away.

The children of members of the Stolen Generation who have passed away will be eligible for payments of $5 000, capped at $20 000 per family.

Surviving members of the Stolen Generation will receive the remainder of the funds, which the assessor will divide equally between them.

It is my great hope that, as with Parliament’s apology to the Stolen Generation, this matter will progress with Parliament’s unanimous support.

Today I am releasing this exposure draft to enable members of Parliament time to consider the draft and to discuss it with me prior to it being tabled in Parliament.

Once the Legislation passes the Parliament, applications will be called for and Tasmanian Aboriginal people will have 6 months to apply.

The process will be advertised not only in Tasmania but also nationally.

We have worked very closely with the Aboriginal community in developing criteria to establish eligibility to make sure that we get it right.

It’s been a difficult task and I thank you for your patience.

We have the support of the Aboriginal community and the broader Tasmanian community to do this.

We received a clear mandate to deliver on this election promise.

It’s a confident community that can look at it’s past and acknowledge that there are parts of our history that we are not proud of.

But it’s a strong community that can take that recognition of wrongdoing and act on it.

Today, Tasmania is a stronger and more confident community.

And we are creating a Tasmania that our children and grandchildren can be proud of.

Reconciliation for me is about recognising the past.

Acting in the present.

And building a better future.

Reconciliation must be part of the future that we leave for future generations.

With this draft legislation I now hand to Annette we can’t undo the past but we can shape a better future.