Remarks at Welcome to Country Ceremony, Parliament House


Thank you, Tina. You honour us as you welcome us, the Members of the 45th Parliament to your Country.

Yanggu gulanyin ngalawiri, dhunayi, Ngunawal dhawra. Wanggarralijinyin mariny bulan bugarabang.

Today we are meeting together on Ngunnawal country and we acknowledge and pay our respects to their elders. I acknowledge and pay my deep respects to your people, the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners and custodians of this land. I extend my respects to their elders past and present and to the elders of all our First Australian Peoples here today.

Next week it will be 45 years since the first Indigenous Member of the Parliament of Australia, rose to make his first speech. For the first time, Neville Bonner's voice echoed across the Senate chamber and he said, "It is with deep and mixed emotions that I participate in the debates of this Parliament for the first time. For thousands of years my people have loved this country. They have appreciated its beauty and its capacity to provide for human needs. Throughout that long period, my race developed many traditions, and the awareness of those traditions and the long and illustrious line of people who have upheld them in the interests of freedom and democracy, makes me humble.”

Today, as newly elected and re-elected representatives, it is our turn to feel the humility of which Neville Bonner spoke. Our Parliament is charged with the responsibility of working with our First Australians as partners and supporters, closing the gap, ensuring that those who were first, will no longer be last and as we do, respecting, learning from and enduring culture as old as humanity itself and as young as these little children who danced for us today. Our role, our duty, is to acknowledge these traditions and the strength of this history and amplify it within the collective voice of our democracy. It is our responsibility to ensure the practices of this place work to forge a common way, a shared way, with those of our nation's First Peoples.

Among Neville Bonner's long and illustrious line of people making their mark on this place, we welcome new Indigenous voices. Three new Indigenous members join the Member for Hasluck, Ken Wyatt and Senator Jacqui Lambie in carrying forward the hopes of Australians who have brought them here to Canberra. The Senate now holds the wisdom and experience, Patrick Dodson and Malarndirri McCarthy, and Linda Burney has made history as the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives.

They join Tina Brown's ancestors, leaders who have used this land as a meeting place for thousands of years, who would welcome surrounding clans here for ceremonies and celebrations, for marriages, to discuss matters of cultural and economic importance and to trade. This ritual is reflected here today. Ours, my friends, is the most successful multicultural nation in the world, complex and evolving. A work in progress always, as we strive here in this Parliament to a better and fairer society. Recognition of Indigenous Australians in our founding document will be an important next step towards a more complete Commonwealth.

So let us continue the 45th Parliament in the way we begin it today, with mutual respect, goodwill and a shared commitment to advance Australia and all Australians.