BATHURST ISLAND, NORTHERN TERRITORY
THURSDAY, 18 APRIL 2019
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I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet. I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
I appreciate very much the opportunity to come here.
I'm here with Warren Snowdon who has been fierce and relentless about standing up for First Australians ever since he was in parliament and indeed before then. I am also here with Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. She is a formidable advocate not only for First Australians but for all Territorians.
It is fantastic to be here also with Senator Pat Dodson, arguably one of the fathers of reconciliation. He is my uncle and advising me about how to get the best deal possible for First Australians.
It is my sincere hope that all things being equal if we win an election, Pat Dodson will be a Minister in a Labor government. What we will have ideally, and as plenty of you know, water to go under the bridge, but in an ideal world for the first time ever in the history of this country we will have a First Australian in charge of Indigenous Affairs in Canberra. Of course we've got to win the election to do that.
What I wanted to do is just briefly other than make my acknowledgements and thank you for having me here was just say to you there'll be an election on the May the 18th. Voting will open before then. And perhaps politics in Australia is a reason for some cynicism. You hear the promises, some things get better, but other things don’t. It takes a very long time to get the basics right. I want to make clear to you. your vote is powerful. Everyone of you - your vote is powerful. This country is at a turning point. One path for this nation is that we go down the road of looking after the very powerful, the very wealthy, looking after the lucky few and then on that path they sort of hope that crumbs will drop from the table and look after everyone else.
There is another path for this nation. It is called fairness. It is called the equal go. What you vote here on Bathurst Island won’t decide the nation but you are part of something bigger and you are powerful. We are very committed to greater local control over decision making when it comes to an examination of the history of our relationship between First Australians and governments we have tried all the other paths. We've tried paternalism, we've tried top down, we've tried taking away children from family, we've tried ignoring culture, we tried denying the land rights, we tried denying that First Australians do not get an equal go. Well we want to try something different if we get elected. We want to try bottom up control we want to try the idea of Aboriginal Controlled Organisations making decisions.
Now I come here and I am going to encourage all my fellow Australians at some point to visit here. What I see is community health doing the very best it can. I see strong women and strong men making decisions. I see children who if given the same opportunities as other children can do anything. They can live on country, or indeed they can pursue other dreams and hopes.
We in Labor want to work with you. We respect 60,000 years of continuous culture. I respect the strength of our First Australians. I respect the compassion of our First Australians to those who have come afterwards. Tiwi Islands, a famous football powerhouse, 900 out of 2600 play football. That makes this ground zero for AFL in Australia. And the point about it is the famous names you have contributed to the AFL from Rioli to Ronnie Burns to Tipungwuti and many more. What that tells me is when we give our First Australians an equal opportunity people, people do really well with it. Imagine AFL without Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. It just wouldn't be as fast, it wouldn't be as skilled, it wouldn't be as entertaining.
So the vision I have if I become Prime Minister is to recognise that when you give people equal opportunity, when you have a teacher in the homeland school all year round, when you've got the proper roads funding, when you've got the health funding and we tackle the rheumatic heart disease, when we provide teams to help in mental health, when we do the eye surgery, when we just give an equal start then you will do the rest. But to get that equal start requires change in Canberra.
This community is a resilient, incredibly interesting, incredibly loving, incredibly proud, incredibly talented community. What you deserve in Canberra is a partner. Not a dictator, not a paternalist, not someone who says 'why should we give our First Australians a hand?’ You just deserve a partner who treats you with respect. If you give us this opportunity we will be partners to First Australians. We will not be big brother, we'll be good friend and we will respect and as you have welcomed me onto country I will repay your generosity, your warmth and your welcome. We will be a government with a heart as big as the Tiwi Islands.
Thank you very much