Letters to the editor | February 12, 2018

Still work to be done

A DECADE on, the National Apology to the Stolen Generations remains a momentous turning point that demonstrates the importance of historical acceptance in paving the road to reconciliation.

On February 13, it will be 10 years since then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally acknowledged the immense suffering experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to past government policies of forced child removal.

The apology was incredibly meaningful to First Nations people, demonstrating the importance of historical acceptance in building a respectful new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Historical acceptance is one of five interrelated dimensions that together represent a holistic and comprehensive picture of reconciliation, as outlined in Reconciliation Australia’s landmark State of Reconciliation in Australia report.

The simple act of the apology showed us how we could face some of the ugly truths of our past to allow us to move forward together.

Despite recognition of the suffering experienced by the Stolen Generations, the growing overrepresentation of Indigenous children in out-of-home care is evidence that Australia risks repeating past wrongs by removing another generation of children from their families.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are removed from their homes and placed in out-of-home care at 10 times the rate of non-Indigenous children, according to the Family Matters Report 2017.

The intergenerational trauma caused by past child removal policies is acknowledged as a factor that continues to influence the growing overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care today.

To achieve historical acceptance, we need to accept and understand our shared history. But more than that, we need to make sure Australia does what is necessary to ensure we address the ongoing impact of past wrongs and safeguard against those past wrongs being repeated.

The 10th anniversary of the apology is a time for Australians to take pride in the progress we’ve made toward reconciliation, while also reminding ourselves that more needs to be done. It was only a starting point. 

The full extent of past wrongs has not been formally explored or officially recognised – which is why there is a need for a comprehensive formal process of truth-telling about our shared history, as the Referendum Council’s final report outlined.

Karen Mundine, chief executive, Reconciliation Australia 

March campaign returns

EVERY March for 70 years, thousands of volunteers have made a wonderful contribution to our community during Red Cross Calling.

They’ve knocked on their neighbour’s doors, said g’day and their combined efforts have raised millions.

All of that effort has gone a long way, allowing Red Cross to help where we’re needed most – from fires to floods, reducing suffering, while keeping people safe, secure and connected.

So many extraordinary volunteers here in Victoria have also gone the extra mile – not just raising money but also reaching out to their neighbours, asking how they’re going and checking on their wellbeing.

Red Cross Calling is more than a fundraiser – it gives us a reason to connect and volunteer for the sake of our community.

Research shows that volunteering and helping in our neighbourhoods helps us live happier, longer lives.

I’d like to send a massive thanks to all those thousands of schools, businesses, community organisations and individuals who’ve answered the call over the years. 

These volunteers make Australia a special place to live. This year we aim to double the number of volunteers in Victoria. Will you be one of them? Join the fun today via redcrosscalling.org.au or call 1800 RED CROSS.

Wenda Donaldson, director, Victoria, Australian Red Cross

New gun laws passed

VICTORIA Police now have the laws they need to tackle organised crime thanks to the state government’s Firearm Prohibition Order regime, which has successfully passed the Parliament.

Despite the desperate attempts of the Liberals and Matthew Guy to weaken and water down these powers to protect the interest of organised crime, community safety has prevailed and the interests of Victorians have won out.

These tough new laws are what Victoria Police need tackle serious and organised crime. The government's intent is for the Firearm Prohibition Order regime to be in place as soon as possible with intensive work on policy and guidelines already underway in Victoria Police.

The Bill will also introduce powerful new offences to deal with offenders who commit drive-by shootings, as well as cracking down on illegal firearm manufacturing.

These new laws have been described as a game changer when it comes to fighting organised crime and have always been about targeting those who seek to use or acquire illegal firearms and cause harm.

The bill also improves the licensing and regulation of legal firearms and legitimate firearm activity including improvements to the legitimate advertising of legal firearms online, providing better opportunity for individuals to participate in supervised pistol shoots and streamlining the transition between junior and adult firearms licences to bridge the gap between the two.

Lisa Neville, Police Minister


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