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30th anniversary of Keating's Redfern speech comes at a "poignant time" in Australian history

Giovanni Torre -

From the Heart campaign director Dean Parkin has noted that the 30th anniversary of Paul Keating's Redfern Park speech comes at a "poignant time" as Australia prepares for a referendum to deliver "practical and lasting reform" though constitutional recognition in the form of a Voice to Parliament.

Mr Keating's speech marked the first time an Australian Prime Minister had directly acknowledged in any detail the crimes of colonialism and their devastating legacy.

"We simply cannot sweep injustice aside. Even if our own conscience allowed us to, I am sure, that in due course, the world and the people of our region would not," he said.

"It begins, I think, with that act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life.

"We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion.

"It was our ignorance and our prejudice, and our failure to imagine these things being done to us."

Mr Parkin described the Redfern speech as a "pivotal moment in the decades-long national conversation on Indigenous reconciliation".

"That speech propelled the cause of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians forward... Now Australia is contemplating Indigenous constitutional recognition through a Voice.

"Thirty years on from that speech, today's Australians are lucky to have the opportunity to make their mark by acknowledging that our unique identity as a nation can be recognised in the nation in a way that honours the 65,000 years of continuous culture here, and also delivers practical solutions to the gaps in fairness and outcomes that all Australians can see."

Mr Parkin said recognition through a Voice to Parliament "honours the unique place" Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have in Australia by giving them a seat at the decision-making table to advise on issues that affect their communities.

"We know that a large majority of Australians, and an even bigger majority of Indigenous Australians, support constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," he said.

"Constitutional recognition through a Voice unites the whole of the country in our foundational law, and delivers a mechanism for practical change that will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people across the country.

"Australia is ready to take the next step and create our own moment for genuine Indigenous reconciliation that future generations will look back to admire and be inspired to build on – just as they were from Mr Keating's speech in Redfern Park 30 years ago."

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