The Opening of the 57th Parliament of New South Wales took place on Tuesday the 7th May 2019. This was the first time Parliament in New South Wales opened with a statement acknowledging Aboriginal cultural and heritage.
Leading up to the opening, a Draft Statement to acknowledge and promote Aboriginal Culture and Heritage was developed by Aboriginal writers and later revised with Input from Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation and representatives of other Aboriginal stakeholders including the Stolen Generations Organisations. Although the final statement delivered differed from that developed with input by Aboriginal stakeholders, those in attendance felt it was an encouraging step of recognition, acknowledgement and support for NSW Aboriginal communities.
The Statement to Acknowledge Aboriginal Culture and Heritage was read by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and the President of the Legislative Council simultaneously in their respective chambers of Parliament.
After acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which NSW Parliament exists, the Gadigal People of the Eora nation, the statement went on to acknowledge the injustices of past practices against Aboriginal people, and also mentioned the NSW Government's commitments to the stolen generations in the Unfinished Business Report. The Unfinished Business Report can be found at: https://www.aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au/pdfs/stolen-generations/25151_Response_into_Reparations_for_Stolen_Generations_Document_v11.pdf The NSW Parliament's commitment to acknowledging Aboriginal Culture and Heritage at the opening of each new Parliament is one of the recommendations accepted from that Report.
The statement acknowledged past assimilation policies, and in turn “the enduring loss of culture and belonging, with many suffering severe abuse and neglect”. It also acknowledged the resulting intergenerational trauma and the widespread impacts on families and communities.
The statement finished with: “Still, today, we acknowledge there is more to do.
As Members of this Parliament, we have the opportunity and responsibility to shape our state's future – a future in which Aboriginal culture and heritage continues to thrive, strengthen and enrich with each new generation”
Our Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation representatives, Aunty Rachel Berecz and Aunty Janet Smith were adorned in possum skins for the occasion, which had been generously shared with Coota Girls by Aunty Matilda House.
After the official opening of Parliament, our Coota Girl representatives had the opportunity to meet over lunch with many key people including the Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian.
We look forward to reporting on future statements made at the opening of each new parliament in NSW.