Here, and in other locations around Australia, our Parliament draws together to remember, to reflect and remind ourselves of at least 65,000 years of stewardship by the original custodians of this land.
Indigenous Peoples who love this country - its lands and its waters - and have cared for it since time immemorial.
We pay our respects to the Ngunnawal people and our First Peoples across our great continent - and to their elders, past and present and emerging.
And here and elsewhere around the world, Indigenous Australians are serving in our Australian Defence Forces - protecting Australians, advancing our interests and a world that favours freedom.
And over in Tokyo, Patty Mills leads the Boomers today.
On this day, I also honour the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who serve in this Parliament, in both Chambers.
The Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians. Two historic figures of this place and of our nation, of whom we can be very proud.
I honour Senator Dodson, Senator McCarthy, Senator Lambie, and Senator Thorpe.
COVID restrictions mean we cannot be joined in the Chamber here today by Pat Turner and her colleagues across the Coalition of Peaks, but I want to pay personal tribute to them, and to Pat in particular, for the partnership being built together, for the trust being established, the respect being shared. It is already bearing fruit.
I’ve always said that Closing the Gap is, at its core, about children.
The ultimate test of our efforts is that every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boy or girl can grow up with the same opportunities and the same expectations as any other Australian child.
Or to put it a different way, that any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child can walk uninhibited in two worlds - to feel at home wherever they walk in our country.
Mr Speaker, this month marks fifty years since an Aboriginal Australian first spoke in this Parliament.
Neville Bonner was born on a small island at the mouth of the Tweed River.
His mother gave birth to him in a gunyah, under a palm tree - she wasn’t allowed in the local hospital.
Neville’s schooling was patchy.
His mother died when he was 11.
And for much of his childhood, most schools wouldn’t take him - and he hit the road with a swag at 15.
As a young man, Neville tried to enlist to serve.
He was rejected - again, because of the colour of his skin.
From his earliest years, Australian society told Neville Bonner he could not walk freely in two worlds.
Daily injustices - fuelled by institutionalised discrimination - followed him through his life.
But like Ken, like so many others, Neville found a strength to rise above it.
To claim for himself the truths of a free nation.
In remembering Neville Bonner, we need to remember the full story.
The derogatory names he was called because his politics didn’t fit the zeitgeist. Warren Mundine, Jacinta Price can testify to that.
And the colleagues, who treated him as an equal in the Chamber, but never saw fit to invite him for dinner or a drink.
Old Parliament House has in its collection Neville’s diary and pillow.
In the diary, Neville reflected on the isolation of Canberra.
And the pillow was there for the late night sittings - he knew there was nowhere else for him to be than in his office.
As Ken says: ‘What a picture of loneliness.’
Progress and cold-heartedness side-by-side.
What a missed opportunity - to listen and to learn.
That failure to listen and to learn has been part of our journey for too long.
Thirteen years ago the Parliament rightly apologised to the Stolen Generations. So many of us stood here.
It was a moment of great reckoning, it was a moment of grace.
But in the years that followed, the Closing the Gap process, born of the best intentions, remained hard of hearing.
We still thought we knew better.
It was why our Government brought together a new 10-year National Partnership Agreement, signed by all Australian governments, the Coalition of Peaks and the Australian Local Government Association.
And from that Partnership, the National Agreement on Closing the Gap was born.
Today, we make the promises of that Agreement real with the presentation, as tabled, of the first Commonwealth Implementation Plan.
In financial commitments, partnership, shared accountability and scope, this is the most significant and comprehensive response to the Closing the Gap that our Government has ever provided.
Mr Speaker, our Senior Australian of the Year, Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Bauman speaks of the concept of dadirri.
A word spoken by Aboriginal people in the Daly River region of the Northern Territory.
What dadirri refers to is ‘a deep inner spring inside us’.
It’s ‘the pursuit of inner deep listening’.
Miriam-Rose says: ‘We call on it, and it calls on us.’
With the Implementation Plan I table today, we are making good on our commitment to do things differently.
A path that requires deep listening - dadirri.
That requires learning.
And a genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and organisations - a partnership generations overdue, built on mutual respect, dignity, and above all, trust.
I’m under no illusion that this will happen overnight.
As Pat Turner says: ‘The path being forged is rocky.’
But with the Coalition of Peaks, the states and territories and local governments, we’re working together to smooth that path.
Mr Speaker, the true value of the National Agreement is who it empowers and what it inspires.
In a significant departure from what we’ve done before, each of the states and territories, and the Coalition of Peaks, will be responsible for their own actions, and their own Plans.
Another departure is that all of us will be independently and collectively accountable.
I will table an annual Commonwealth progress report, around this same time every year.
Each of us, the states and territories, will separately deliver theirs.
And all of us will reprioritise our investments to do things that we know will work.
To help us understand what the evidence says - and our progress - the Productivity Commission will release an annual report on the outcomes and Priority Reforms.
The first of those reports was released last week.
On life expectancy, we’re doing better. But we’re not where we want to be.
On getting kids into preschool, we’re tracking well.
On incarceration rates, we’re not achieving what we need to.
On youth detention we are making progress, but the data tells us we still have a long way to go.
As well as the annual reports, the Productivity Commission will also present an independent review once every three years.
After each report by the Productivity Commission, an independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led report will deepen the data, and give us a picture of the change happening on the ground.
Overall, it’ll be a far more rigorous assessment of the data - and the data will be updated in real time for all Australians to see.
Mr Speaker, we have many years of hard work ahead of us, as we have behind us.
The first Commonwealth Implementation Plan - with more than $1 billion worth of new, targeted measures - lays the foundation for this work.
The Plan is an overview of Commonwealth actions to Close the Gap.
It’s aligned to the four Priority Reforms and the 17 socio-economic outcomes set in the National Agreement, including new target areas such as justice and Indigenous languages.
Critically, the measures we’re funding reflect a sharpened set of priorities.
Again, we haven’t defined these priorities unilaterally.
Instead, they are priorities offered and agreed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples themselves.
The first of these new priorities is simply to collaborate better.
And to do that by building better structures for genuine partnership and joint decision-making.
That’s why we have our Joint Council - co-chaired by Ken and Pat - that includes ministers from each state and territory, 12 members of the Coalition of Peaks, and a representative from the Local Government Association.
Equal representation, right around the table.
The Joint Council builds on the partnerships that are happening at the jurisdictional and Commonwealth levels. The Joint Council is meeting tomorrow to commence its work bringing all of the implementation plans together to form a thorough, layered, national plan.
The second priority is to build up Indigenous organisations.
To empower community-controlled sectors to do what they already do best: deliver the services that support Closing the Gap.
The example I keep going back to is the outstanding job the National Aboriginal [Community] Controlled Health Organisation has done during this pandemic.
The contribution of Pat Turner, Dawn Casey, and NACCHO in keeping vulnerable Australians safe has been nothing short of extraordinary.
The fact that no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person has died from COVID-19 in Australia, and there have been no cases in remote communities, is one of the most significant pandemic achievements Australia has had.
And Indigenous Australians have been six times less likely to contract COVID-19 than the wider population.
That shows what happens when we work in partnership.
But we must invest in the capabilities of such partnerships.
And that’s why this Implementation Plan includes $38.6 million for an Outcomes and Evidence Fund.
It will support genuine co-design between government and Aboriginal [Community] Controlled Organisations and other local providers to deliver the best possible services for families and children.
This goes to the heart of the third priority area, which is about transformation of government.
We seek to understand in detail how our systems can knowingly or otherwise perpetuate racism.
The new chapter of Closing the Gap simply won’t succeed without it.
The last priority reform area is about data.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations need to be able to collect, analyse, and use their own data to meet their own needs.
Mr Speaker, in this new plan, with $1 billion in new measures, one measure will mean more, I know, than any other.
And that relates to the Stolen Generations.
What happened is a shameful chapter in our national story.
We have already confronted it with the National Apology.
But our deeds must continue to match our words.
Earlier this year, I met with The Healing Foundation and listened to the stories - not simply stories of the past, but stories that continue to reverberate throughout the generations.
So, today I announce that the Commonwealth’s investing $378.6 million in a new scheme for the Stolen Generations - for survivors who were removed as children from their families in former Commonwealth territories: the Northern Territory, the Jervis Bay Territory, and here in the ACT, the Australian Capital Territory.
The scheme will involve a one-off payment in recognition of the harm caused by forced removal.
And it will give each survivor the opportunity to, should they wish, tell their story, and receive an individual apology.
This is a long-called-for step.
Recognising the bond between healing, dignity, and the health and wellbeing of members of the Stolen Generations, their families and their communities.
To say formally not just that we’re deeply sorry for what happened, but that we will take responsibility for it.
Mr Speaker, I turn now to the other aspects of the Commonwealth Implementation Plan.
Tangible actions that are directly linked to clear targets.
Targets that we’ll be held accountable for in the years ahead.
Measures that are both new - in the Priority Reforms, of justice, and languages - and measures that need continued investment to deliver a longer term impact.
I’ve spoken already about investing in the community-controlled sector.
The Commonwealth is providing an extra $254.4 million towards infrastructure to better support Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to do their work, their critical work, on their terms.
The Plan also has a new focus on justice.
Of course, the Commonwealth doesn’t manage those justice systems.
Where the Commonwealth can make a difference is in bringing people together.
That’s what our Justice Policy Partnership hopes to do - and it will be on the agenda at tomorrow’s Joint Council meeting.
The Commonwealth is also in a position to provide additional funding for some of the services it supports.
So, in this first Plan, $9.3 million is there for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service to better manage complex cases and coronial inquiries.
And $8.2 million for family dispute resolution programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
This all feeds into the new targets we’ve set: that by 2031, we will reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults incarcerated by at least 15 per cent, and the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in detention by 30 per cent.
Up until now, we’ve put the economic and social determinants of health at the centre of our approach.
Today, we understand that cultural determinants of health are important too.
Because a person’s sense of community and culture is inherently bound to their physical and emotional wellbeing.
It’s bound to their dignity as a human.
Earlier I used the word, dadirri.
Dadirri is one of the thousands of Indigenous words and concepts that are a gift to all Australians.
Concepts that can never adequately be translated into English.
And tell us so much about the nuanced and powerful connections First Australians make between self, and community, and the land.
These words are part of the rich inheritance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
An inheritance that Closing the Gap will, from now on, specifically seek to protect.
At the latest count, there were 123 Aboriginal languages still being spoken. Of those, only 14 were considered strong.
Our target is a steady increase in the number and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages being spoken between now and 2031.
And we’re committing $22.8 million to support this effort.
Then, you have the areas of long-term impact.
The first is ensuring the best start in life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
The Commonwealth is investing more than $160 million in this effort.
This includes the Early Childhood Package announced yesterday - some $122.6 million to lift participation in quality and culturally-appropriate early childhood education and care.
Our investment also flows into school education - initiatives like building on country boarding schools, to which we’re contributing $75 million.
City-Country School Partnerships - an investment of $26 million.
And Scaling Up Success - an investment of $25 million to make sure primary school kids are taught using the best evidence-based programs.
And to keep women and children safe, the Plan is also investing in supporting Indigenous families with complex needs.
Again, I want to emphasise that this Commonwealth Implementation Plan, and the proposals in it, it just forms one part of a larger whole.
There are ten Implementation Plans like it - one for each jurisdiction, the Peaks and the Australian Local Government Association.
And all of them will be presented to the Joint Council meeting tomorrow.
And all of them will be tracked and further shaped as we learn more about what is working, and what needs to improve.
To go back to Pat’s words, the road ahead will be rocky.
I don’t doubt that.
We don’t expect to see clear improvements immediately. But I think the approach we’ve got now gives us the best chance.
Mr Speaker, on occasions like this, we quite rightly focus on the gaps that we need to fill.
And look to the places where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders do not have the same opportunities as other Australians.
And it’s right that we do so.
But let us not forget the richness and achievement that also inspires us.
Across this country, in most fields of endeavour, we are seeing confident, strong and empathetic Indigenous leadership emerge.
We see it expressed here in this Parliament - with voices adding to our national life in politics, the arts, and business, and sport.
May our country be a country of voices not silence - because liberal democracies are all about giving voice.
And in our country it is also dadirri.
The deep listening of soul.
A listening that is not rushed. Rather, it is careful, it is thoughtful, it is considered.
I can report to the House that the Minister for Indigenous Australians has received the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process Final Report.
The report was submitted by Senior Adviser Group Co-Chairs, Professor Dr Marcia Langton AO and Professor Tom Calma AO, following 18 months of extensive co-design engagement.
And I want to thank them and the members of the co-design group for the care they have brought to this task.
And we will consider the details of the Final Report and respond in the future following consideration by the Cabinet.
The first step was to define the detail of an Indigenous Voice.
The Indigenous Voice will contribute to achieving the Closing the Gap outcomes by providing avenues at the national, local and regional levels for Indigenous voices to be heard, including to provide feedback to Government on Closing the Gap.
Once a model for the Indigenous Voice has been developed, all Governments will need to explore how they can work with the Voice to ensure that these views are considered.
Some might want this process to be faster. I want it to be right.
We have to learn from each other, and we will, as we walk and reason together, side by side as sons and daughters of this great continent.