Politicians have been known to use the odd photo opportunity to show off their dance moves, with varying degrees of success.
- Premier Peter Gutwein attended his first Indigenous event since taking over as Premier from Will Hodgman
- Mr Gutwein admitted he was “taught little about the richness … and even less about the sadness” of the state’s Aboriginal history
- Tasmania’s Education Minister has indicated his support for Indigenous language being taught in schools
Newly appointed Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein added his name to the long list this weekend, taking part in a traditional dance at an Indigenous celebration in Launceston.
“It has been a long time since I have been up to dance, and I must admit if I do it here … I’ll have something to explain to my wife I’m sure,” he joked, speaking at the first Takara Waranta Walk With Us cultural celebration.
Despite his reservations, Mr Gutwein, along with Governor Kate Warner and Launceston Mayor Albert Van Zetten, joined in at the first Indigenous event since Mr Gutwein took the top job last month.
The Tasmanian Government has long been criticised by the community for its “disastrous” approach to Indigenous relations, but Mr Gutwein alluded to the “ongoing journey” to mend the relationship and recognise the past.
“This coming together of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is part of the ongoing journey of respect, understanding and reconciliation,” he said of the event.
“I was schooled during the 1970s and 1980s and like many of my generation I was taught little about the richness of your culture and even less about the sadness of our history.
“I’m very pleased that now my children, through their education, are provided with a more accurate account.”
Land good, economic opportunities better
Since Mr Gutwein came into the top job, the Government has committed to supporting Aboriginal cultural burning methods to tackle bushfire risk.
It has also invited members of the Indigenous community to help shape a new Aboriginal and Dual Naming Reference Group.
Land hand-backs in Tasmania
- 1995 – 12 parcels of land, including Risdon Cove – piyura kitina
- 1999 – Wybalenna on Flinders Island
- 2005 – Cape Barren Island – Truwanna
- 2005 – Clarke Island – Lungtalanana
Elders at the celebration welcomed Mr Gutwein’s attendance.
“The more we work together, the more I know my elders change their attitudes towards things, because some of them are set in their ways,” Auntie Wendal said.
But sore points remained — there have been no land returns from the State Government since 2005.
“We do need more land handbacks, but we also need land handed back in a way that is accessible to all the community,” Auntie Netty said.
Aboriginal dancers perform as part of the “celebration of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture”. (ABC News: Damian McIntyre)
Reconciliation Tasmania chief executive Mark Redmond said handbacks needed to go further.
“For any future land returns, there needs to be an economic capacity for it so that Aboriginal people can actually earn and develop business from their land,” he said.
“They have to have free hold title to develop enterprises like aged care facilities and community care facilities.”
‘More talks needed’ before palawa kani in classrooms
Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff has said he “believes strongly” in the idea of Tasmanian students being taught palawa kani — the reconstructed Tasmanian Aboriginal language — in classrooms.
Auntie Wendal wishes for a future where Aboriginal history is “taught and acknowledged”. (Supplied: Nayri Niara Good Spirit Festival)
“I believe strongly in the idea, but also recognise the very real need for respectful discussion with our Tasmanian Aboriginal Communities about any such implementation,” Mr Rockliff said.
Co-chair of Reconciliation Tasmania Fiona Hughes agreed consultation was key.
“We’re nine nations in Tasmania, and we have different languages in each region,” she said.
“There needs to be more discussion around that before anything’s rolled out with the rest of the community.”
Auntie Wendal said she would welcome the move, but said there was still work to do in other areas.
“I would like a future where our young ones can walk tall and proud and know that their history is being taught and being acknowledged,” she said.
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