Australian Democrats Indigenous Affairs’ spokesperson Andrew Bartlett says this morning’s Welcome to Country to open the new federal Parliament is an important step forward which is as significant in some ways as tomorrow’s apology to the Stolen Generations.
"Enabling a welcome to country from the traditional owners is a significant action, and the new Labor government should be congratulated in enabling the first Australians to play a key role in the ceremonial activities to start the life of a new Parliament," Senator Bartlett said.
"While these ceremonial activities are symbolic, it is also an important act of respect and recognition, as well as a reminder that our parliamentary and political processes need to ensure greater involvement of Indigenous Australians
"It also provides a fuller affirmation of our unique Australian identity."
"Having Indigenous Australians play a role in the opening of Parliament is important, but we should still not forget that only two Indigenous people have been elected to the Senate in the 107 years since Federation, and none have ever sat in the House of Representatives.
"Today is a good start, and tomorrow’s apology will be another important step. But there is still a long way to go," Senator Bartlett concluded.
The Senate passed a resolution moved by former Senator Aden Ridgeway in 2002 supporting an Indigenous welcome being part of procedures for the opening of Parliament. It was also a unanimous recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee in 2001.