Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (16:55): I move:
That this house:
(1) acknowledges that Wednesday, 26 May, is National Sorry Day, where we remember and recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their families and communities, which we now refer to as the stolen generations; and
(2) urges all members to reflect on how we can all play a part in the healing process for our First Nations peoples, our nation and for all stolen generation survivors.
I am pleased to put this motion in my name, but I am also sad that we need to put this motion up. This motion goes to acknowledging that today is Sorry Day and that today is the day we remember and recognise that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters were forcibly removed from their families and communities in what was called the stolen generation. We say that it started in the 1800s and we say that it finished in the 1970s—we say that. It is not true. It still happens.
In Victoria Aboriginal children are 10 times more likely to be removed from their families. We cannot change this without accepting the truth of history, and this is what Sorry Day is about. It is accepting that truth. It is acknowledging that truth. It is then reminding us to remember those historical injustices, those injustices that still press and scar trauma into generations—generations existing today and probably to come. Aboriginal people still die in custody. Aboriginal people are still far more likely to be jailed in this state. And I think despite how we talk about treaty, when you look at parts of our criminal justice system and the way that it so unfairly discriminates against people, and Aboriginal people in particular, we only have to look at our bail laws to see the injustice, where the onus of proof is put—and this has kept particularly Aboriginal women jailed.
I would like to think that there are some areas where we are trying to change this, and I was very pleased, with other members in this chamber, to have been part of the spent convictions inquiry and part of spent convictions bills that led to the spent convictions legislation in here. I acknowledge the really fierce and proud work and strong work that Woor-Dungin did for that, which helped us acknowledge that we need to change. We need to change what we are doing, because if we do not, we are going to continue to impress trauma upon people. I would like to acknowledge Uncle Jack Charles today for also working so hard and being such a strong voice in this area.
I would just like to make a quick note about a woman—and I think this really clarifies it for me—that we are helping in my electorate office. I will call her Rosie. We are trying to find her housing so she can see her children. She cannot complete the requirements of the reunification order to see her children because she cannot find adequate housing near her children. Rosie is from Bendigo. Her children were taken into the care of a family member in Melbourne. In order to satisfy the reunification order she must see her children multiple times a week, including picking them up from school and organising dinner—absolutely right, and we should be doing everything we can to enable Rosie to do that. But right now we cannot find Rosie a home so that she can be reunited with her children. We have raised this with the minister. We have raised this with the department. I think on a day like today it just further hits home the work that we have got to do. Even though we are in our 23rd year of Sorry Day, even though it has been 24 years since the Bringing Them Home report was first published, we are still nowhere near where we should be.
I think on a day like today—and I promise not to sing—I reflect on—
A member: Do it.
Ms PATTEN: No, I promised the staff in my office that I would not sing:
This story’s right, this story’s true
I would not tell lies …
Like the promises they did not keep
And how they fenced us in like sheep
Said to us, ‘Come take our hand’
Sent us off on mission land
Taught us to read, to write and pray
Then they took the children away.
I am sorry, and I hope that we can change things in a far more expedient way than we have for the last two decades. We can do better. We must do better. We must recognise the past. We must own up to it, live it and act on it instead of what I feel is a lot of talking, a lot of reports but not the action that is required to make the change that we so desperately need.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Motion by Ms Patten 26/5/21