Great strides, but more to come

Great strides, but more to come

Spetmeber 9, 2010

Bev Manton, Chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, has commended the NSW parliament for its support yesterday of a Bill to formally recognises Aboriginal Australians as the state's first peoples.

The historic occasion saw Ms Manton address the special sitting of parliament, saying the symbolic constitutional gesture was well overdue.

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally introduced the landmark bill just after 11:30am on Wednesday, September 8, following a traditional smoking ceremony in the parliamentary forecourt.

Premier Keneally described the occasion as historic and "humbling," adding it was "a proud day in the state's history."

Chairwoman Manton said not only was it an extremely important moment in the state's history, but yesterday's events shape what she hopes will be a dynamic relationship between government and Aboriginal people.

"Today's event was significant indeed, and I only hope that we can extend this overwhelmingly positive step into something tangible for our mob.

"The Premier's warmth and conviction during today's events was genuine, and certainly appreciated by the many Aboriginal people in attendance.

"But I hope this is just the first of many symbolic and practical steps in a positive and industrious new dialogue.

"As significant as it is, we mustn't be satisfied that yesterday's event was the destination. The building of bridges between black and white Australians is an ongoing journey.

"My people have gained huge step forward in the recognition of their rights as the first and true owners of the State of NSW, but the work ahead of us all remains immense.

"I want to also commend parliament for affording this important step its due bipartisan support from both sides of the dispatch box.

"Indeed, opposition leader Barry O'Farrell's address to parliament was spoken not only from a position of understanding, but with clear empathy and respect for Aboriginal people. This was encouraging indeed," she said.

"As the state's peak Aboriginal body, we look forward in hope at what the future brings for Aboriginal people right across this great state we all call home.

"NSWALC notes last night's statement from the Greens MLC Ian Cohen that they will support the amendment when it reaches the Legislative Council. We would anticipate they will be joined by the cross benches and we look forward to the bill passing into law."

Media contact: Chris Munro

0438 760 242

Note: Hi-res photos availble upon request