First nations reflect on Keating’s speech

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating giving his famous Redfern Speech in 1992.

NATIONAL: Aboriginal community members have gathered in Sydney to mark the 20th anniversary of Paul Keating’s historic Redfern speech.

The former prime minister’s speech on December 10, 1992, was the first time an Australian political leader had publicly acknowledged the impact of colonial and contemporary government policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people.

The speech put reconciliation on Australia’s political agenda and is credited as paving the way for 2007′s formal apology to indigenous Australians.

In a statement, co-chairs of Reconciliation Australia, Dr Tom Calma and Melinda Cilento, said Mr Keating’s Redfern speech was “one of the most significant speeches ever delivered by an Australian political leader”.

“In his speech Keating spoke frankly and honestly of the land theft, dispossession, violence and discrimination suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people in the course of modern Australia’s creation,” the statement said.

“Significantly, Keating referred to the need for what he described as an `act of recognition’.”

On Saturday, Gail Mabo, the daughter of the late land rights activist Eddie Mabo, read extracts from the Redfern speech at Sydney’s David Minton Gallery.

She told the ABC that Australians should reflect on Mr Keating’s words.

“It’s one that people should actually look at and reflect on, because the words he was saying in that, it reflects that issue of change, but it’s a thing of through small things, big things will happen,” Ms Mabo said.

“But change will happen. It mightn’t be right here, right now, but it’s just changing people’s attitudes, and that’s what he was doing with this speech.

“He was trying to get into people’s heads that it is time for change.”


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