Three issues: Remembrance Day, NAIDOC Week, Dismissal of the Whitlam Government

By Terri Butler MP

11 November 2020

In 1997, Governor-General Sir William Deane issued a proclamation formally declaring that 11 November would be known and observed as Remembrance Day and urging all Australians to observe one minute's silence at 11 am to remember the sacrifice of those who died or otherwise suffered in Australia's cause in wars and warlike conflicts. Today, the nation paused to remember those who have been lost. If I were at home in my electorate, I would have commemorated today with one or more of our local RSL sub-branches, and I'm happy to say that my staff were able to ably represent me in my absence at a number of ceremonies that occurred. I say to all of the members of those sub-branches, to all who have served who live in our local communities and to their families: thank you. We will remember them. Lest we forget.


NAIDOC Week is being held this week. It was postponed this year because of COVID. It's usually held in July. This year's theme is Always Was, Always Will Be. NAIDOC Week acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were Australia's first explorers, first navigators, first engineers, first farmers, first botanists, first scientists, first diplomats, first astronomers and first artists.

In my electorate, there were a number of events occurring within the constraints of COVID. The Princess Alexandra Hospital is opening a new yarning circle, which I'd hoped to attend the opening of, but it'll be a great facility for Indigenous patients and staff and for reconciliation. I was able to drop in last week and deliver some lovely new Australian, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander flags for the ceremony. One of Australia's best radio stations, 98.9 For The Best Country Brisbane Indigenous Media Association, is based in my electorate. For NAIDOC Week, they held a special outside broadcast at Bunyapa Park, a park secured for the community by my friend the former local councillor Helen Abrahams. I wish I could've been there for the event. Bunyapa Park is a wonderful park that I was fortunate to attend the opening of. Uncle Desmond Sandy gave a beautiful welcome to country at that time.

For NAIDOC Week, the event with 98.9 featured a welcome to country and cultural events. Bunyapa Park is also the site of the beautiful memorial mural for the late Uncle Sam Watson by Warraba Weatherall and the equally beautiful flag and flowers mural on the steps by Neta-Rie Mabo. Let me also acknowledge, while I mention her, that Neta-Rie has been selected by the West End Community Association as the lead artist for the 'Breaking the Boundary' mural in People's Park in West End, which I was proud to fund with a Stronger Communities grant. Sadly, the big NAIDOC family fun day at Musgrave Park could not go ahead in my electorate this year because of COVID. I know people have really missed this event this year. It's a really fantastic day that usually brings a lot of people together for music, cultural performances, stalls and celebrations. I am pleased, though, that landmarks in my electorate, including the Kurilpa Bridge, the Story Bridge, the Victoria Bridge and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, are being lit up in the colours of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to celebrate the week.

It has been a difficult year for local Aboriginal communities, and I want to acknowledge that they have spoken out on two very important matters: first, the international Black Lives Matter movement and the calls to stop black deaths in custody here in Australia. Second, I want to thank local Aboriginal communities for the solidarity that they've shown with refugees who have sought Australia's help and are currently in limbo in a hotel in Kangaroo Point, where they've been detained for many months. Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders have been at the forefront of social justice movements that go well beyond their own communities, and this tradition has continued in Kangaroo Point.

Finally, let me say something about today's anniversary of the Dismissal. Today marks the 45th anniversary of the dismissal of the Whitlam government. Gough Whitlam and Labor created the foundations for a fairer and more prosperous Australia. They were opposed by the Liberals and Nationals at almost every turn. Might I say, in respect of my portfolio, the Whitlam Labor government introduced Australia's first national environmental legislation. They ratified the Ramsar convention on wetlands of international significance, a convention that underpins part of our environment law today, among other international environmental agreements. They ratified the World Heritage Convention, giving the national government the power it needed, via the foreign affairs power, to protect World Heritage areas when the other jurisdictions failed to do so. It was this power that later allowed the Hawke Labor government to prevent the Tasmanian government from damming the Franklin river. It was the Whitlam Labor government that legislated to allow the Commonwealth to protect the Great Barrier Reef. It was this legislation that was used to prevent the Bjelke-Petersen National Party government's plan to allow drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. The Whitlam Labor government also created the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Labor builds prosperity and equality. Unfortunately, those opposite try to tear them down and leave Australians behind.