Australia takes one small step to right past wrongs.

For the first time in its 107 year history, the opening of Parliament today was ushered in with a traditional Aboriginal welcoming ceremony. It was a moving and inspiring moment bringing together Indigenous people and politicians for the start of a new Parliamentary term.

Ngannawal elder, Matilda House, said in her speech, “With this welcome comes a great symbolism: the hope of a united nation, through reconciliation. We can join together the people of the oldest living culture in the world and with others who have come from all over the globe and who continue to come.” She also delivered a traditional message stick to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd which “told the story of our coming together.”

Mr Rudd said, “Today we begin with one small step, to set right the wrongs of the past. In this ceremonial way. It is a significant and symbolic step. It has taken 41 Parliaments to get here. We can be a bit slow sometimes. But we got here.”

Australia’s Governor-General Michael Jeffery later outlined the Government’s aspirations for the next term. It included raising life expectancy, reducing child mortality, and educational achievement for Indigenous people.

Members of the Stolen Generation who will be present tomorrow said that the moment that Kevin Rudd says ‘Sorry’ would be an emotional one. Undoubtedly it is set to be one of the most emotional moments in parliamentary history.

Matilda House said the welcome was a significant moment for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. “This renews our hope and our pride, our strength is refreshed,” she said. The Opposition agreed that it would be a feature of Parliamentary openings in the future.

It will be a small step and many will hope that for this nation it will mark a new beginning.

~ by abstraktbiblos on Tuesday, 12 February, 2008.

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