8 OCTOBER 2023
Can I also join in the acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Dharug people – who are the same people who are the traditional owners in my electorate – and pay respect to elders past, present, and emerging.
Can I also acknowledge my friend Malarndirri McCarthy and my friend Malcolm Turnbull, who first appointed me Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
And I am here because I want to complete that work we started.
Like Malcolm, and like Barry O’Farrell, and like so many Liberals, I am committed to seeing us vote YES.
I am also here today with my family. My wife Joanna; my beautiful little boy James, who is 5 and a half; my daughter Ruth, who is 18 months.
Because this, as Malarndirri says, is about our future.
It’s about the future of all of our children, whether they are Indigenous or non-Indigenous.
It’s about the sort of country we want to live in.
I regard Australia as the most livable country on Earth.
This is a country where you can do anything you want to and in which everyone should be able to succeed.
Tomorrow, James goes back to kindergarten for the new term. There will be millions of Australian children who go back to kindergarten and to their classes.
For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children, they will have difficulty concentrating in their class, because they will come to school hungry.
They will have difficulty hearing their teacher because they will have ear diseases, or difficulty seeing the board, because they have eye diseases.
They will come from homes where people are struggling with poverty and struggling with safety.
That’s not the Australia that I want to bequeath to the next generation and it’s not the Australia that any of us want to see.
My friends, the Australia I want is the Australia we see echoed in the Uluru Statement, in those beautiful words: “When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.”
The future is in our hands.
Echoing the words of my religious tradition that we’ve heard so often in this campaign: “If not now, then when. If not me, then who?”
By recognising our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the Constitution, we can complete the Constitution next Saturday.
I am optimistic about it.
I feel the wind is at our back.
And I feel that if you listen, you can hear the yearning.
You can hear the yearning of the oldest living culture on our planet, of over 60,000 years.
You can feel the willingness of this land.
You can hear the yearning of those great Indigenous leaders who have gone before.
The ones whose names we know and the ones who we don’t.
People like the remarkable Yorta Yorta leader William Cooper, who kicked off this project of Indigenous recognition nearly a century ago, when he petitioned King George for the recognition of his people in the Constitution.
You can feel it as we walk in the footsteps of Jimmy Clements, who walked 80km to be at the opening of our first Parliament House in Canberra.
And we can see it in the work of Faith Bandler, Neville Bonnor and Rachel Perkin’s extraordinary father Charlie.
And it’s not just in the footsteps of Indigenous leaders we walk. We can feel it in our convict ancestors, in our mining ancestors, in the federation fathers, in the ANZACS, and in everyone who has come and chosen Australia to be their refuge and their home.
They are willing us on as we walk this journey together.
By voting YES on Saturday, we are voting YES to unity; we are voting YES to completing our Constitution; we are voting YES to closing the gap; we are voting YES to giving every Australian child the future they deserve.