Forty-sixth Report — “Acknowledgement of Country” — Recommendations 1 and 2

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN — without notice: I move —

(1)  That the Legislative Council adopts the following form of words for a Legislative Council acknowledgement of country —

This House acknowledges and honours the traditional owners of the ancestral lands upon which we meet today—the Whadjuk Noongar people—and pays its respects to their Elders both past and present.

(2)  That Standing Order 14(1) be amended as follows —

To delete paragraph (a) and insert —

(a) acknowledgement of country and prayers;

This motion gives effect to the recommendations of the forty-sixth report of the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Procedure and Privileges. That report was presented to the house by you, Madam President, last November. Members have no doubt read that report but may wish to reacquaint themselves with it. This report touches on an important and sensitive matter. The report details how the committee came to investigate this matter in the first place. We were following on from a prerogative of the Legislative Assembly, which has contemplated this matter through its Standing Committee on Procedure and Privileges and has embarked on a particular course of action. The report acknowledges that the committee was provided with further information from the Legislative Assembly about its exploration of this issue, and we thank it for that. The report of the committee is self-explanatory. I know members are taking a keen interest in that report, so I do not intend to repeat what many members are re-reading at this time. However, I wish to provide some guidance to the Committee of the Whole about how it might wish to view this matter.

[Speeches and comments from various members]

Hon ALISON XAMON: I rise to indicate how pleased I am that we will finally have an acknowledgment of country read into the opening of Parliament on a daily basis. I think it is a really important step towards reconciliation with the First Australians. I think it is more than symbolic. Part of achieving reconciliation is about coming to terms with our history and acknowledging that this land was never ceded. It is Aboriginal land and will always be Aboriginal land and, as such, it is important and appropriate for this chamber to be acknowledging that that is the case.

I also think that it would have been useful to have had a form of words, for the reasons that have been articulated, that would have incorporated all the Aboriginal peoples within Western Australia, because if we end up holding Parliament outside this place and this building, it will be important that we acknowledge the lands on which we meet. Having said that, we are meeting specifically on Whadjuk Boodja, the lands of the Whadjuk Noongar people. As such, it is appropriate that respect is given specifically to those people on whose land we meet.

I do not believe that an acknowledgement of country takes away from or denigrates those people who have come to our shores, and will continue to come to our shores, to create what is now Western Australia. I am a direct descendant of four of the original members of the Swan River Colony and the original generations of people who came here and created Perth and Northam, as it turns out, in the form that we can see today. I do not believe that acknowledging our First Peoples in any way takes away from the achievements of people who have come to Australia since, and I feel no need to denigrate my personal family history in that regard. However, it is important, as an act of reconciliation, that we acknowledge that this is a colonised state and that as a result of this, the First Peoples of this land have experienced a level of disadvantage, marginalisation and poverty that is yet to be appropriately reconciled today. By no means should this ever be seen as ensuring that we have met our obligations to the First Peoples. Indeed, I do not think that anyone who supports these sorts of measures would ever think that that was the case. We are talking about an entire people who are less likely to live as long as others and who are more likely to be incarcerated and experience disadvantage, homelessness and poverty.

It is a really important step to ensure that we are, at the very least, acknowledging whose land it is on which we meet. As such, I am pleased that we have been able to achieve a consensus within this chamber to come to a form of words that will be spoken every day in this place so that we do not forget upon whose land we meet. Hopefully, that will also serve as a regular reminder of the obligations that we hold to always have the best interests of Aboriginal people at the forefront of our thinking.

[Speeches and comments from various members]

 The PRESIDENT: Members, when we first started this debate, I said that I would split the motion into two parts and we would vote on each separately. We have now already amended part (2), so we will not do that. Therefore, the question is that the motion, as amended, be agreed to.

Question put and passed.


Resolutions reported, and the report adopted.


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