It is only recently I've become comfortable celebrating Australia Day. Well, that's not true. I don't feel comfortable celebrating Australia Day, but I can now bring myself to attend a local community event.
Many Aboriginal Australians experience gross disadvantage. Participation, engagement and achievement in education is significantly lower amongst Aboriginal Australians than the wider population. The community experiences disproportionate levels of unemployment, are over-represented in the criminal justice system and have poorer health and well-being outcomes, with age expectancy 17 years less than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
This is not an argument against Australia Day. I think it is important as a nation that we do come together and celebrate our identity, our strengths and what we aspire to be. But should we come together on a day that could legitimately be marked for mourning? Particularly when its legacy still scars the Aboriginal community as it does.
Why then, can I now bring myself to mark Australia Day? What has changed?
"History is always written by the victors". Let us write a history of celebration that humbly marks the magnitude of this day and that moment in history that changed this magnificent culture forever.
To this purpose, I want to reflect on the Sorry Day speech written by former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd:
"Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
We reflect on their past mistreatment.
We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.
The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.