One of the best parts of following state politics is when you see elected representatives show heart andfearless conviction; when opposite sidesset aside differences and combine to do what is right.
In these all too few instances, there is no spin, nomuck and no obvious political point-scoring.
Hearts were certainly full at Government House this week when Governor Kate Warner gave Royal Assent to amend the state’s most important document, the Tasmanian Constitution, to recognise Tasmanian Aboriginals as Tasmania’s first people and the traditional owner of its land and seas.
It was moving to witness Her Excellency embrace well-knownAboriginal elder Patsy Cameron,who has been kindly and rationally fighting for her community for decades – like so many others – and see the two exchange flags.
The amendment symbolised a significant reward for all that work andhas been widely acknowledged as the first step.
Aboriginal representative Fiona Hamilton spoke at the ceremony about the diminishment of the Aboriginal identity over the two centuries since invasion.
“We are challenged now to live those tremendous words of gesture and apply them in a way that helps Tasmanian Aboriginals,” she said.
It seems that too often the modern-day requirements of indigenous people are sidelined –misunderstood, misconstrued, or simply treated as too difficult to deal with.
All social indicators show that they are worse off than non-indigenous people,financially andeducationally, which inevitably leadsto poorer health outcomes.
They are the minority voice in political debate in Tasmania, sometimes disparagingly labelled troublemakers when they fight for people to recognise what is dear and meaningful to them.
Ironically, while the state government initiated the wonderful act of amending the Constitution in an effort to right past wrongs, it was fighting with the community to reopen four-wheel-drive tracks in the Tarkine area where ancient middens and other cultural artefacts exist.
The government, with the community, need to take Constitutional recognition to a new level of recognition.
There needs to be a way to get Aboriginal representation on the floor of State Parliament so groups no longer need to lobby from the sidelines.
There needs to be dual management procedures for the state’s environmentally protected areas so they are not only kept world-class but in tune with long-established cultural sensitivities.
Aboriginal stories and traditions need more attention in the classrooms where students can unflinchingly learn of Aboriginal struggle in the past and not-so-distant past.
The state government to its credit has acknowledged this and will contribute $520,000 over two years to provide more resources and training so teachers can deliver an enhanced Aboriginal curriculum.
The elephant in the room is enhanced financial assistance and land reclamation –a complex area that needs to be thoroughly explored, not ignored.
We cannot be distracted by fears of people losing private land or access to public areas or racially-charged perceptions of extra support for indigenous people over other sectors of thecommunity.
Momentum to genuinely reset the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Tasmanians cannot be lost now.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.