On 11 October 2017, the NSW Upper House passed the Aboriginal Languages Bill 2017. The Bill seeks to create a legislative framework around which local Aboriginal communities will be able to revive and reinvigorate their languages and linguistic traditions. Rev Nile makes the following additional comments:

·        “This was a historic day that will be remembered warmly by my colleagues as a watershed moment. We witnessed the spirit of reconciliation between Australians of good will on an issue that has been the source of grief for the politically voiceless for decades.”

·        “The emotional tone of the day’s proceedings was set by the Smoking Ceremony that was held outside of Parliament, before members entered the Upper House Chamber to debate and pass this historic legislation.”

·        “In the chamber, local Aboriginal elders addressed us in both English and their local language. Songs were sung, and a Message Stick was passed around as a reminder that the cultural integrity for our indigenous neighbours is inseparable from their sense of pride and self-worth.”

·        “This was more than just the symbolic coming-together of two ancient traditions in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect.”

·        “The legislation that was passed was a reflection of the work done in previous years by the Christian Democratic Party in the cause of real reconciliation.”

·        “Only practical steps will be able to help disenfranchised, impoverished and dislocated communities rebuild and regain their self-respect.”

·        “Undoubtedly, the cause of preserving the languages of our First Australians will be a fundamental move towards reclaiming their dignity and identity.”

Media inquiries:  Rev. Fred Nile MLC:               (02) 9230 2478

The Rev. The Hon. Fred Nile MLC

Encl: Hansard Extract

Aboriginal Languages Bill 2017

Introduction

Bill introduced on motion by the Hon. Sarah Mitchell.

Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE ( 12:40 :27 ):

Thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of the Aboriginal Languages Bill 2017. This is an historic moment, as the Minister said. The first historic point was when we passed the Aboriginal land rights legislation in 1983. I was pleased to be one of the members who enthusiastically supported the legislation and voted for it. I think I am the only member still in this House who was there in 1983. It was a battle, but thankfully the land rights legislation was passed and it brought into existence in New South Wales the Aboriginal Land Council. Even though obviously I am not an Aboriginal, I have sought to represent the concerns of the Aboriginal people in my 36 years in this Upper House, to speak on behalf of them and consult with them about their concerns and to bring those concerns to the House.

As I was thinking of these words that I am sharing now, I thought that perhaps we should have had an amendment to our Constitution to allow for two Aboriginal representatives to be elected to serve in the Upper House, so we actually have a voice for the Aboriginal people in this place—but that is another battle to be fought and hopefully to win. I also had the privilege of serving on the inquiry into the Stolen Generation. Quite a few of the witnesses shared with us their concerns about language and told us how they were punished, as children, if they tried to use the Aboriginal language. There were various punishments; one was to take the child and chain the child to a tree in the grounds of the centre, and leave that child there overnight for using the Aboriginal language. They were forbidden to use their Aboriginal name, and to rub salt into the wound, not only not able to use their Aboriginal name, they were given a number and told they had a number, not a name, which reminded me of previous totalitarian generations and nations that have treated people in that same way. I will not go into that today.

I also shared in the inquiry into the reparations or compensation to the Aboriginal people for the losses they have suffered and the Aboriginal representatives here have mentioned that today, of the wealth within the nation and within the State and how little of that seems to have reached the Aboriginal people themselves—which is another issue to be resolved. I was given a message by the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council that had an embargo until 10.00 a.m. today, which raised a few of their concerns. I will conclude by putting these concerns on the record. Other speakers have referred to similar concerns. The Land Council was very concerned that the Aboriginal community was to have control of Aboriginal languages. That must be a priority for the Government. Any legislation must involve full and proper consultation with the owners of languages, and that would be an ongoing.

The Land Council was also concerned the legislation could seek to impose ministerial controls or intervention in relation to Aboriginal languages. There is some sensitivity in this area, even over the point that the trust cannot employ staff, but only have staff allocated to it from Aboriginal Affairs NSW. Even that seems to be an element of patronisation that white people seem to slip into, often without being fully aware of it. The Aboriginal people themselves have worked tirelessly to retain, teach and promote Aboriginal languages, in spite of those problems that they have had to face. “The Government can never own or control our languages and its role must be to work in partnership with the Aboriginal interests.” That is an important point I would like to make. I am very pleased to support the legislation before the House and do all I can to make sure it is implemented successfully in this State.

Media inquiries:  Rev. Fred Nile MLC:               (02) 9230 2478

The Rev. The Hon. Fred Nile MLC

END

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