Western Australia Day (Renaming) Bill 2011
Date:Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Extract from Hansard
Hon Sue Ellery; Hon Alison Xamon; Hon Wendy Duncan; Hon Linda Savage; Hon Helen Bullock; Hon Michael Mischin; Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm; Hon Donna Faragher; Hon Phil Edman; Hon Ed Dermer; Hon Ken Baston; Hon Brian Ellis
Resumed from 21 March.
HON ALISON XAMON (East Metropolitan) [8.17 pm]: I rise on behalf of the Greens (WA) to indicate that we also support the Western Australia Day (Renaming) Bill 2011. It is about renaming Foundation Day to a term that will hopefully serve to be more inclusive—Western Australia Day. I note that Foundation Day was originally a commemoration of the first European settlement in Western Australia, although there seems to be some dispute over when the boat actually landed and whether Albany should in fact be able to claim that it was indeed the first settlement in WA. I am not getting into those arguments, but I note that at least there has been a broad understanding that Foundation Day has commemorated the beginning of European settlement. Of course, that means that it is also about commemorating what for the first peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal people, is not a positive point in their long history on this continent. It has to be acknowledged that, for many Aboriginal people, Foundation Day is not considered a day to be recognised or celebrated. For them, it is a day that is about their colonisation, and for many of them it became the beginning of what has been a tragic history of suffering, dispossession and even massacres within this state.
It would be fair to say that the effects of colonisation for many Aboriginal Australians, even generations later, is very much still being felt today. It needs to be part of the reconciliation process. I am not under any delusions; I recognise that simply changing the name of Foundation Day will not mean that suddenly we will have achieved reconciliation and that somehow, magically, we will have dealt with the gross injustices that were committed against our first Australians in the past. But it is at least one tiny step of recognition towards hopefully embracing a more inclusive future, and I think that is very important. Obviously, we must recognise that we still need to address major disadvantage for Aboriginal Australians in particular, whether it be life expectancy, disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal people languishing in jails, or poverty and health issues. We still have a long way to go, because the long-term effects of colonisation have not been positive. It is important that we remember and recognise that and that we do not get caught up with feeling too proud about how colonisation in this state has impacted on everybody.
Having said that, I am not trying to diminish Western Australia‘s history or legacy. I recognise that some people have been concerned that changing the name will somehow detract from the positive things that people feel about their history. I am from a family that goes back many generations in Western Australia. My ancestors were some of the key colonisers of Western Australia. In fact, James Brittain, who is my great-great-grandfather, built the Barracks Arch, the old Cloisters building and a range of other landmarks. Interestingly, I have found over the years that I am inadvertently related to a lot of people in Western Australia. I would not be surprised to find that some members in this chamber, if they went through their family history, are probably related to me—but only if they are lucky!
I have taken a great interest in my background and that of my ancestors—the people who helped build Perth into what it has become today. So I am not trying to take that away. I also think it is important that we have an opportunity to celebrate that Western Australia has moved beyond European colonisation and that we have become a much broader and inclusive community. That is something that I celebrate. I think that is really positive. Time and again when people have talked about this issue, it has been said that Western Australia is now represented by 200 different nationalities, 170 languages and 100 faiths. I think that is a wonderful thing; that is something that I really cherish. I like the fact that we live in a multicultural city. I like the fact that we have a diversity of food. I like the fact that we have a diversity of people and that we live together relatively harmoniously in this little part of the world. I think it is really positive that we move towards celebrating what we are becoming, at the same time as we try to ensure that we reconcile some of our dark history, which we need to acknowledge.
This bill will change only the name of a public holiday; it will not change the world. But I think sometimes even these small recognitions are a step forward. Hopefully, this is a step forward not only to being more inclusive of Aboriginal Western Australians, but also to not rejecting our history, but embracing what we have become and where we are going in the future.
Debate adjourned, pursuant to standing orders.