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Victoria Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Jeanette Powell

Statement From Minister For Aboriginal Affairs Jeanette Powell

Victor P Taffa

The Victorian Coalition Government recognises the first peoples of this nation through a variety of mechanisms including, where appropriate, acknowledging traditional owners past and present.

Acknowledgement of Country is not mandated, never has been, and nor should it be.

The Coalition Government believes that such acknowledgements may be diminished if they become tokenistic.

The Coalition Government will continue to encourage people to recognise the nation’s first peoples by way of representative speakers at an event, preferably the first speaker, making a suitable and heartfelt acknowledgement that subsequent speakers may choose to echo.

 

By way of example, the Premier’s landmark speech on Closing the Gap on 24 March 2011 commenced with the following words:

“I would like to start today by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land past and present. In so doing I want to make it clear that our Government acknowledges the special place indigenous Victorians occupy as the original inhabitants and custodians of this state. I was particularly proud that a new Parliamentary tradition started with the Opening of Parliament in December last year with the formal Welcome to Country by representatives of the Wurrundjeri and Boonwurrung people, Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin and Caroline Briggs.”

This is real and genuine acknowledgement that means something to both the speaker and the audience, rather than a mandated set of words.

The Coalition Government respects Aboriginal culture and recognises the contribution of Aboriginal people through both symbolic and practical measures.

Under the Coalition Government a new tradition of a Welcome to Country at the opening of Parliament commenced in December 2010.

In March this year, the Premier and myself, along with the Opposition Leader and the Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs signed a recommitment to Closing the Gap of Aboriginal disadvantage.

In coming weeks the Coalition Government will be announcing the detail of the establishment of the first Indigenous Honour Roll to recognise the contribution of Aboriginal Victorians to this State.

We have also re-established funding for Reconciliation Victoria, funding that was cut under the previous Labor government.

These measures are on top of continuing investments in service and program delivery, including a $2 Million investment in indigenous governance, leadership and capacity building which will support the operational and governance capacity of indigenous organisations and will see more Aboriginal people take up leadership and board positions within the indigenous and wider community.

I and the Premier and other representatives of the Victorian Coalition Government will continue to acknowledge the first peoples of this nation – not because it is mandated, but because we choose to do so out of respect.

We all have a deep and enduring respect for Aboriginal peoples.

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