NAIDOC Week - Private Members Statement

Today I want to talk about a celebration that is important not only in my electorate of Sydney but also across the city, that is, the celebration of the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee [NAIDOC]. There will be a number of events, exhibitions, performances, awards and gatherings, which will continue through July. The origins of NAIDOC can be traced to the emergence of Aboriginal groups in the 1920s, which sought to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Indigenous Australians. It is a celebration of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise their contribution in various fields. As part of NAIDOC Week I will be proudly launching a book on Sydney's Aboriginal history. It will mark a small but symbolically important step. It is a step that reinstates the Aboriginal history of Sydney, a part of the Sydney story which for too long has gone unacknowledged in the stories we tell about our city.

Looking at the past, we are helping to build a stronger future where Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal people have an honoured place. The City of Sydney Sustainable City 2030 Plan, which evolved out of extensive consultation across the Sydney community, explicitly calls for greater recognition of the special place of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

To help us achieve that, we formed an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory panel in 2008 with representatives from the local community who have worked hard and provided valuable advice. We know that international visitors, and Sydney people too, want to learn about the world's oldest living culture. Our 2030 strategy includes our proposal for the Eora Journey—a project that will trace culturally important sites from the Sydney Harbour to Redfern. The booklet I will launch is called Barani-Barrabugu, meaning, in the Sydney language, Yesterday and Tomorrow, to signify the continuity of Aboriginal people and culture in our city. It is the first step in the Eora Journey, following the city's history program, which engaged Steve Miller in January last year to begin the process of mapping significant sites in the inner city. Steve, who comes from Museums and Galleries NSW, identified with his team of researchers no less than 255 sites, which were presented to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory panel in June last year.

The panel was excited by his work and established a cultural mapping working group to advise staff on planning Barani-Barrabugu. With their advice, the history program has drawn on Steve's research to produce the booklet. Each of the sites is connected with a historical theme such as civil rights, sport and performing arts, and through its connection with these major themes, Redfern itself is testimony to the continuing vitality of Aboriginal culture. Archaeological evidence from places across the city shows the unbroken connection that Aboriginal people have with this place. Prince Alfred Park, which we are in the midst of renovating, was an Aboriginal camp site until the middle of the nineteenth century, while in the twentieth century another great open space, at The Domain, was often enlivened by the oratory of great fighters for Aboriginal rights like Jack Patten. In 1938 the Australian Hall in Elizabeth Street became the venue for the first Day of Mourning, while in the 1970s Redfern gave rise to the Aboriginal Legal Service, Australia's first Aboriginal medical service and the Aboriginal Housing Company at The Block. Members can read about all these things, and many more, in this wonderful booklet.

I place on record the valuable help of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory panel, and congratulate Steve Miller, Dr Lisa Murray, who leads the history program, and the panel on this important step forward not only for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but also for all of Sydney. The city of Sydney's contribution to NAIDOC Week only begins with this booklet. Events we support include Aboriginal history tours, a knit-in in which Wrap with Love volunteers knit red, black and yellow squares to make blankets for communities in need, and History in Conversation events. Members will have seen our NAIDOC Week banners throughout the city. We also support celebrations hosted by local groups and organisations, including the Glebe Youth Service and Walla Mulla Family and Community Support services in my electorate in Woolloomooloo. Last year this House supported constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people and we committed to closing the gap on Aboriginal disadvantage. I have asked the Government a number of questions about its plans and targets to achieve this. Aboriginal people are intrinsic to our shared story of Sydney, and Aboriginal culture and history permeate the modern city and give it a depth and resonance beyond the everyday. I join people across Sydney in celebrating NAIDOC Week.