2008 is off to a very interesting start. Although I don’t formally take up my position until 1 July, I was invited to the opening of Parliament, which turned out to be a far more moving experience than usual.
The week’s events began with the first ever ‘welcome to Country’ in Parliament House, an hour of elegant dance and ceremony all the more significant for the realisation that this simple courtesy was more than a century overdue.
The formal opening of Parliament still carries the archaic flavour of the British House of Lords, in striking contrast to the fire ceremony at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy which kicked off the spirited march and rally a few hours later. Rachel and Bob got a great response, particularly Rachel’s strongly worded commitment to fight for an end to the disastrous Northern Territory Intervention.
The next morning I watched the Prime Minister’s apology on the lawn of Parliament House, in the company of thousands of others, and got a glimpse of how extraordinary Australia could be if we allowed ourselves to meet our potential. It’s a morning that I think I will remember for the rest of my life.
What the apology didn’t say illuminates the next stage of the campaign for Aboriginal Sovereignty: there was no mention of the NT intervention, and no offer of compensation for the families and communities wrecked by the forced removal of children.
In the weeks leading up to the opening of Parliament I’ve been travelling, getting some road-time as well as attending a weekend with the national anti-nuclear movement, and the first ever meeting of the national network of campaigners for Burmese democracy. If you’re interested in participating locally in either of these campaigns please get in touch.
Before I wrap up, I’ve got to plug the highly readable Friends of the Earth report ‘Climate Code Red,’ which lays bare the science and politics of climate change in a way which will alarm and then inspire. If we’ve become accustomed to imagining climate change as a major challenge for our children, ‘Code Red’ demolishes this idea once and for all. If we leave it to the next generation it will simply be too late. The change has to happen now – you can read about it at http://www.carbonequity.info/
A lasting afterimage of the recent past must be the sight of the shocked and diminished Coalition opposition listening to the opening of Parliament as the new Prime Minister began the process of burying the Howard legacy. I’m really looking forward to being part of the Green team that builds on the promising start to 2008.