Speeches

Sorry Day

May 26, 2021

Tomorrow, it will be 54 years since Australians were asked to right wrongs. They did. Over 90 per cent of Australians voted yes in the 1967 referendum to amend the Constitution to allow the Commonwealth to make special laws relating to First Nations people. Only eight out of 44 referendums have been successful, and the '67 referendum question to right wrongs was the most successful ever. The Australian people did the right thing, and more than 90 per cent of them voted yes. More than 90 per cent of Australians wanted to right wrongs. That amendment to the Constitution has been enormously significant to First Nations people and to all Australians. It allowed this parliament to enact the Native Title Act in 1993. It allowed Australians to recognise, as Paul Keating said at Redfern, that it was 'we who did the dispossessing'. Keating also said, 'We failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds.' Sadly, we're still failing on that measure.

The modest request in the Uluru Statement from the Heart four years ago was for a voice to parliament. Today is Sorry Day. It's time we really entered the hearts and minds of First Nations people by having a voice to parliament. Australians will do the right thing. We want to right the wrongs, but it takes a government with courage and conviction. Sadly, that is not the government that we currently have. A pea heart in a husk just won't cut it.

ON YOUR SIDE