12 November 2020

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (18:34:42): This week is NAIDOC Week and, as such, I acknowledge the Gadigal and Bidjigal people of the Eora nation as the traditional custodians of this place we call Sydney and my electorate of Coogee. As I have said previously in this place, the name "Coogee" is derived from the local Aboriginal word "koojay", which means smelly place or, in the Bidjigal language, stinking seaweed—a reference to the smell of decaying kelp that washes up on the beach. Luckily, I love both the sea and the seaweed. This year's theme is "Always Was, Always Will Be", which recognises that First Nation people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years. The very first footprints on this continent were those belonging to First Nation people. To them, this nation began at the dawn of time.

I take this moment to apologise to all Indigenous Australians for the harm that has been inflicted upon them either by me or by any member of my family, past or present. I acknowledge that the State of New South Wales has not yet done what needs to be done to acknowledge the injustices inflicted upon our First Nation people. I commit to doing my best to ensure that this Parliament starts treaty or treaties negotiations with our First Nation people. As members of the Parliament of New South Wales, we must work together with First Nation people to develop treaties that ensure people do not have to compromise their Aboriginality to be successful.

In 2018 the Victorian Parliament became the first to introduce treaty legislation and implement the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria to support the Victorian Aboriginal community. This marked an incredibly significant step towards reconciliation and providing our First Nation people with the voice they have always wanted and needed. In my electorate alone, some of the biggest concerns expressed by my constituents are those relating to the injustices that Aboriginal people face in New South Wales. Some of the biggest issues the State of New South Wales needs to address to eliminate those injustices are incarceration rates and treatment of Indigenous people in the justice system and the improvement of opportunity and outcomes of the education of our Indigenous children.

In 2018 the shadow Attorney General, and member for Liverpool introduced a bill to establish the Walama Court, which is an Indigenous-specific court that would operate within the jurisdiction of the District Court of New South Wales. The introduction of this court would be a significant step in addressing the issues relating to police brutality and incarceration rates for Indigenous people. The importance of the design of the Walama Court is the focus on diversion rather than punishment. It is crucial that the New South Wales Government focuses on addressing the underlying causes of crime and, where possible, diverts offenders away from the criminal justice system with the goal of reducing recidivism.

I thank the Premier for acknowledging the need to transform our national anthem to be an inclusive and celebratory tribute to our entire nation's history. I do not agree with her on many things, but I agree with her on that. This change not only will be a small step towards restoring respect and dignity but also will unite and recognise us all as Australians. We must hear and learn the 65,000 years of history of this nation—a history we want all Australians to celebrate.