Stolen generations (compensation) bill

In Parliament - Thursday, 15 October 2015

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (11:06:02): I also rise to speak very briefly on the Stolen Generations (Compensation) Bill 2014, and echo the sentiments of the leader and the member for Stuart. In essence, to me this bill is about trying to right, in some small way, the grievous errors of the past. It was wrong to forcibly remove children from their parents solely on the basis of the colour of their skin. In circumstances in which this has happened, it is appropriate that the state pay adequate compensation.

While it is impossible to erase the pain of the past which has already occurred, we can, as a state, try to ease their suffering. As the member for Stuart alluded to, no-one in this place is personally responsible for that pain and suffering, but as legislators we have an obligation to right the wrongs of the past.The estimate which I have seen is that this bill will benefit approximately 300 Indigenous people in South Australia, in accordance with the proposed eligibility criteria, at a cost of about $5 million. I hope that this, in some small way, will help the victims of the stolen generation. As we are all aware, this is a scheme which has been successfully implemented in Tasmania. South Australia would be the second state in the commonwealth to adopt such a scheme if we did so.

In my own electorate of Davenport, there is a strong connection with what is known to be the stolen generations. The Colebrook Reconciliation Park in Eden Hills remembers the victims of the stolen generations with two poignant statues called the 'Fountain of Tears' and 'Grieving Mother', which were sculpted by Silvio Apponi. The park was built on the site of the old Colebrook Home, which was home for many Aboriginal children from 1943 until 1972, when it was demolished.

The Colebrook Reconciliation Park also features a list of names of all the children who were residents at the Colebrook Home. Some of the former residents of Colebrook experienced harsh treatment and the dislocation of their culture and Aboriginal identity. A notable resident of Colebrook Home, who attended Unley High School and later became a champion of Indigenous issues, was the 1984 Australian of the Year, Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue. Dr O'Donoghue was also the first chairperson of ATSIC and has been recognised with a Companion of the Order of Australia award, and awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

The practical effect of this bill is to compel the state government to put their money where their mouth is on Indigenous issues and support it. Labor members of parliament are more than happy to acknowledge traditional owners of the land at the beginning of each and every meeting that they attend. They are full of platitudes, but it is time for those opposite to step up to the plate and support this measure which has been passed in the other place. It is time for them to support the Indigenous communities in South Australia. The reason for the government's opposition, in my mind, is the measure of symbolism over substance. Too often, we see this within the Labor Party's DNA on these issues.

The Leader of the Opposition (member for Dunstan) has made it clear that the Liberal Party will do whatever it can to work with the government and all members of parliament to ensure this matter is resolved in a satisfactory matter. I do implore those opposite to support this bill that has been passed in the upper house.

I commend the Hon. Terry Stephens MLC, who had carriage of this bill in the other place, for his advocacy on this important issue. I want to put on the record that the Liberal Party has a very proud history of championing Indigenous issues in this place and in this state. Former prime minister Tony Abbott, with his work in Cape York, was a big champion of Indigenous issues, and it was the prime ministership of Harold Holt that saw the successful 1967 referendum. Closer to home, we had Dean Brown's apology to the stolen generation when he was premier, and former premier Tonkin's courageous championing of Indigenous issues in the APY lands was a generous start in this state. I commend this bill to the house, and I urge those opposite to support it.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.R. Kenyon .