Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National Apology Anniversary Breakfast, Government House, Sydney

Location: Government House, Sydney

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Thank you Michael (Michael Rose, MC, Chief Executive Partner Allens Arthur Robinson)

I would like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting this morning and to thank Donna (Ms Donna Ingram) for her welcome to country.

And thank you Your Excellency Professor Marie Bashir for hosting this anniversary breakfast.

I Acknowledgement:

  • Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd
  • Florence Onus
  • Michael McLeod, who does so much to pull this breakfast together each year

It is a pleasure to be back with you again for this annual breakfast.

To come together to mark the significance of that February day four years ago, when our nation took such an important step towards healing and reconciling.

To reflect on the significance of the work still being done, by the Healing Foundation and by groups around the country, to continue that journey.

Because as we meet here in Sydney, so too are Australians meeting in communities across the continent.

To reflect. To reconcile. To continue the process of healing.

One of the most enduring legacies of the 13th of February 2008 has been the way it brought communities together.

Australians literally crossed bridges together.

Arm in arm.

They gathered at Parliament House in Canberra to hear that important word – Sorry.

Watching the Apology in schools and workplaces throughout the nation.

Australians standing together.

Crying together.

Smiling together.

Because it was a day to share emotions. Of relief, and pride. And healing.

It is that spirit that I believe will help guide us all as we prepare to take the next big step in our journey of reconciliation.

To recognise our first people in the Constitution.

To have the foundation document for our laws and our government reflect the special place Indigenous Australians hold our nation.

As custodians of the oldest continuing cultures in the world, and of our land, and for the contributions made to our nation, both past and present.

It is an exciting time. And I am excited by the opportunity this presents us to build stronger relationships and unite communities.

As you would all know, the Government has now received the report from the Expert Panel we appointed to begin the process of constitutional recognition.

I’ve previously congratulated the Panel on their report and I do so again today. It provides us with a strong foundation for the work we still need to do.

We do not underestimate the challenge of achieving nation-wide consensus.

This will be another occasion where our nation will have to work together – governments, business and community organisations, Indigenous people and Australians from all walks of life – to build consensus.

For all Australians to get involved in building a movement for change.

It is a task the Government is dedicated to and I ask all of you here today to give us your support.

Of course, I know that many of you are already working to achieve reconciliation in so many ways.

I was pleased to receive Reconciliation Australia’s report this week outlining some of the terrific work being done under Reconciliation Action Plans.

And I know many of you work for organisations that have introduced RAPs.

Including our MC.

Launching the Allens Arthur Robinson RAP Michael said:

We commit ourselves to action.

We commit ourselves as lawyers who can support Indigenous rights and Indigenous enterprises.

An indisputable legacy of the Apology is that many other Australian business leaders have come to share this view.

The latest Reconciliation Australia report shows that nearly 14,000 Indigenous Australians have been supported to obtain jobs in the last 18 months.

And the great thing about this program is that it is a two way process.

On the one hand, it is opening up organisations to provide employment and training opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

On the other it is helping non-Indigenous Australians appreciate and understand indigenous Australia.

More than 170,000 people have been given access to cultural awareness training through RAPS.

This is the shared experience that has grown directly out of the National Apology.

RAPS recognise that all Australians can work together to build a shared future.

To build the relationships of mutual respect that support our work to close the gap in in Indigenous disadvantage.

I feel a great sense of optimism about our capacity as a nation to do this.

To continue to the journey of that February day four years ago. Together.

Thank you.