Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Unveiling of Wati Jarra Jukurrpa at Reconciliation Place

Location: Reconciliation Place, Canberra

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I would first like to pay my respects to the Traditional Owners- and thank Matilda for her welcome to country.

Most of all I want to thank Paddy Stewart Japaljarri for his stunning artwork: for sharing his country, and his Jukurrpa [dreaming] with us.

It brings the spirit of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory over 2000 kilometres away to us here in Canberra.

It forms a visual connection between other artworks here in Reconciliation Place.

And it’s a link between our landmark institutions – the High Court, Old Parliament House, the new National Portrait Gallery.

Over the years, artists, designers and builders have made Reconciliation Place a site of cultural significance

So too, in the way he has lived his life and the art he has created, Paddy has contributed so much to the preservation and celebration of his culture.

He comes from near Yuendumu in the Tanami Desert. He is chairman of the Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation which is an internationally recognised art centre.

He is also a dedicated community man, teaching Aboriginal and ‘kardiya’ children, traditional skills including painting, jukurrpa (dreaming), tracking and dancing at the Yuendumu school.

I was in Yuendumu last month at the opening of the new swimming pool.

It was a scorcher. After sitting through the formalities and the speeches the kids could hardly contain themselves.

I will never forget the wonderfully chaotic scene as they all jumped in.

Just as Paddy is a man of his community, so his community worked together to get their pool.

In partnership with government and the private sector – developing positive relationships which benefit the whole community.

New relationships based on mutual respect and responsibility are at the heart of this Government’s determination to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

We know that it will take time building this relationship and rebuilding the trust.

That we have to do it with both actions and words over time.

As the Prime Minister said in the Apology, we are beginning a new chapter where ‘we embrace with pride, admiration and awe these great and ancient cultures we are blessed to have among us’.

These wonderful artworks are vivid evidence of Australia’s great and ancient cultures – something all Australians should be proud of.

Thank you Paddy. I take great pleasure and pride in launching Wati Jarra Jukurrpa.