ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY, MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR BOB HAWKE
FRIDAY, 14 JUNE 2019
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Ballumb Ambul Eora gu Gadigal yirra bang marang. In the language of my people, the Wiradjuri, I pay my respect to the Gadigal people of the ancient Eora nation.
In observing acknowledgement, can I extend my respect and affection to Susie and the Hawke clan, and to Blanche, for giving me the great honour of sharing in this celebration of the life of Robert James Lee Hawke.
The Gadigal are forged into the Australian story as the first to experience the brunt of British colonisation or invasion – depending on whether you’re on the shore or the boat.
Acknowledgment reminds us that we are a place of many stories, many maps – the oldest being the legitimate sovereign nation states, many hundreds of them. It tells the story of First Australians.
It reminds us that our country is endowed with the extraordinary gift of the oldest continuous surviving culture on our planet.
Our collective story weaves the blanket that embraces us all and creates the story – the narrative – of our nation.
And in that story, there is a man that stands tall.
Bob Hawke offered a vision for an inclusive forward thinking Australia.
For First Australians, Bob Hawke was able to tap into Australia’s sense of fairness to find the rightful place for First peoples.
He transformed the conversation to land rights and self-determination.
He announced the 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
He established ATSIC.
He increased funding.
And Bob was the Prime Minister when Uluru-Kata Tjuta was handed to the traditional owners.
Friends, in my home, I have a rare screen print of that hand-back, signed by the traditional owners Reece and Cassidy Uluru, Nipper, Nui Minyintirri, Kanari and others.
Six signatures, with a cross.
I finish the acknowledgement today with part of Bob’s response to the Barunga Statement, a statement on bark that now sits in the Australian parliament, a statement that called for self-determination, land rights and recognition, and resulted in the Prime Minister committing our country to a treaty making process.
Bob’s response dispelled the false dichotomy and fear-mongering that Indigenous advancement meant a loss for non-Indigenous Australians. Bob knew it meant advancement for all.
31 years ago he said of the Bicentennial at Barunga:
“I've asked all Australians to understand that those 200 years which come on top of 40,000 years of Aboriginal culture, traditions and civilisation, that it is the Aboriginal people who were the prior occupiers and owners of this land.
“You were the people who for 40,000 years have cared for this land and it's only if we understand that that we are entitled in any way to have these celebrations.”
Friends, in that context, and in that vein, let us celebrate the life of Bob Hawke.