Adjournment speech on the October 14 Referendum


I want to share with the House about an event that I attended last Friday night with former prime minister Julia Gillard. It was for the EMILY's List internship report—a great program where extremely talented young women across Australia apply to become an intern. We heard from this year's intern about her research into social change. She had travelled to Ireland to study the impacts of the referendum on marriage equality there, and she summarised for us some of the things that she found from her research. One of the things that she found in this research and that the Irish attested to across the country when she interviewed them was that the referendum campaign had been incredibly painful for the LGBTQI community in Ireland. She found that, when we get to these moments of social change, there's generally a minority that has battled to get us to that point of acknowledgement, and they have really suffered. Their mental health had suffered. Of course, it was a positive result in Ireland. The 'yes' got up. But that doesn't mean there wasn't damage in the process. She told us about the impact on the mental health of the LGBTQI community in Ireland during the campaign leading up to the referendum.

There were some other interesting findings. She also talked about the fact that, often at these points of great social change around a referendum—or a plebiscite, as we had in Australia—women come to the fore, engage in social change and become campaigners, and that is a historical fact. You can't help but reflect on where we are right now, because in my community there are lots of women who are out there campaigning for a 'yes' to this referendum. You can't help but reflect on the impact that this campaign may be having on First Australians across this country.

It is with a swollen heart that I hope that, after six decades on this planet, I'll be celebrating on 14 October that I've been part of the social change that I have looked for for decades. But I am not a First Australian. I do, however, have two nieces who are First Australians. I sat in this chamber today during question time and I reflected on how what is said in this place reverberates around this country, and that they were hearing things that I would wish them not to hear. I have told them all their lives, as has their mother and as has their community, that they are equal and they are worthy and that they deserve every chance in this country. But history tells them that that's not the case. History tells them that they are not worthy. Their family history tells them that they need to be ashamed of being First Australians. They're not the only First Australians in this country who will be reading what was said and done in this chamber this week.

I rise during this adjournment debate to put on the record my disappointment that the respect that has been called for has not been shown in this chamber. It has not been shown by the 'no' campaign across this country. Mr Speaker, 14 October can be a great day of celebration, a great day that brings us together and a great day of affirmation for us as a nation, for us to live up to our values and for us to demonstrate that we are the country of the fair go, and that we can say sorry and then embrace First Australians in a moment and move forward with them.

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