The mourning period for Queen Elizabeth II has been a “difficult and painful reminder of the impact of colonization” for many First Nations people, the minister for Indigenous AustraliansLinda Burney.
“The Queen’s relationship with Indigenous Australians reflects both how far we have come and how far we still have to go,” Burney said in a condolence motion in the House of Representatives, adding that it showed the need to move towards a referendum on the vote. to the parliament.
Federal politicians returned to Canberra for a rare Friday session of Parliament, with both chambers devoting the day to messages of condolence following the monarch’s death. Friday marks the end of the federal government’s official “compliance plans” following Thursday’s national day of mourning and remembrance.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese again praised the late queen as “a rare and reassuring constant amid rapid change” and her successor, King Charles, for his “passion and his commitment to the natural environment and sustainability”.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he hoped her legacy would “inspire the very best in Australians for generations to come”.
Burney was given a prominent speaking slot on the list of more than 100 politicians in the House of Representatives who had nominated to give a short speech. Speaking directly after the leaders of the major political parties, the Wiradjuri woman said the “remarkable” outpouring of grief following the Queen’s death “clearly reflects the love and respect she inspired”.
But Burney also spoke about the mistreatment and discrimination of Indigenous Australians during her lifetime.
“In Aboriginal culture, sorry business is deeply important,” she said. “Just this week I have been to two funerals of women from Elizabeth II’s generation; Aunty Esther Carol in Sydney on Monday and Aunty Nita Scott in Narromine on Tuesday.
“Two extraordinary women, born at a time in this country when they were subjected to the horrors of the New South Wales Welfare Board, which made every Aboriginal person a department of the state. It had total control. Both women grew up on Aboriginal reserves and experienced the yoke of the Welfare Board. But they were women of great determination and courage and, like the Queen, full of grace and dedicated to service.”
Burney spoke of the Queen’s 1954 visit to the regional Victorian town of Shepparton, where people were “hidden away” to avoid being seen by the monarch.
“This week has seen many struggle with the swirling emotions … but there are just as many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have respect for the Queen, especially as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” she said.
Citing the changes during the Queen’s lifetime, including the Mabo decision and the 1967 referendum, Burney said Australia had “much more work to do”.
“It is my great hope that the coming years bring us closer to fulfilling Australia’s greatest promise,” she said.
Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said some First Nations people had “mixed feelings” after the Queen’s death, and said Indigenous Australians were reflecting on the “pain of the border wars”.
McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, spoke in her speech about how her family members had shared different thoughts about the monarchy and the “world of colonialism”.
“Now deep, still, the pain of the border wars and the conflicts that came with it,” she said.
“We know these are the mixed feelings and emotions of so many across the globe in Commonwealth countries for First Nations people.”
McCarthy said the British system of Westminster democracy had been a “wonderful” thing, but emphasized the feelings of indigenous peoples about what the Queen represented as a symbol.
At Thursday’s memorial service, the governor-general, David Hurley, acknowledged the queen’s death had sparked “different reactions for some”, including Indigenous Australians, and said reconciliation was “a journey we as a nation must undertake”.
Albanese had shrugged off questions about what the Queen’s death might mean for Australia’s republican movement, but said in his memorial speech that “in all things, including our progress towards reconciliation, the Queen always wanted the best for our country”.
Greens senator Dorinda Cox said Australia should be “a mature nation capable of conversations commemorating the life of a public figure while calling out the problematic legacy of the British Empire”.
“These are difficult conversations to hear and share, and it is even more difficult to live through the oppressive systems that continue to perpetuate them,” said the Yamatji-Noongar woman. “As a nation, we need to tell all sides of the story.”
Country Liberal senator Jacinta Price spoke warmly of the Queen’s legacy, saying Australia “would not be the nation we are today if it wasn’t for the support, devotion and guidance of the monarchy”.
“History cannot be undone, and the inevitable investigative explorations of humanity have meant that every corner of the earth has been settled,” Price said. “This land mass we call home would never be left untouched by anyone but our first people. We can be thankful that it was actually the British who settled here before the many other would-be colonists.”