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I too would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet and I pay my respects to elders both past, present.
It is true to say that too many of our fellow Australians feel cynical and disillusioned about politics and that all of us have an obligation to improve people's confidence in the political system.
But it is also true to say that our first Australians have more reason than any other Australian I suspect, to feel cynical and disillusioned about politics.
I think it is fair to say that no group of Australians has been listened to less and heard more.
So when we think about that though, we should also realise how fortunate we are in the Labor family, how lucky we are, that despite the cynicism and disillusionment that exists, how fortunate and lucky, and worth celebrating it is that we have three such distinguished first Australian leader who have chosen to represent Labor and have been elected to represent Labor in Parliament.
How lucky are we.
And in many ways their contribution is emblematic of the change which can be achieved.
Today, it's about talking about Closing the Gap.
Today it's about recognising that nine years ago yesterday, Kevin Rudd and Jenny Macklin led us in the Apology to the first Australians, to the Stolen Generations.
But also, it is emblematic of the change that we are capable of making.
We need to change the relationship between first Australians and all other Australians.
It's not just a matter of listing the pluses and minuses, the balance sheet, the accounting sheet of what works and what isn't.
It's about changing the relationship.
It's about putting Aboriginal people in control of their own lives and their own decision making.
We all ask ourselves 'what is the change that we want to see? What is the change that we want to be?'
And the change I see is that Aboriginal people have:
- healthier lives
- happier lives
- more prosperous lives.
Lives where they are proud in their culture and proud in their identity.
Where they have the space and the place to be in control of their own lives.
Now, what we are fortunate to do today is to be able to say that in the future in this Caucus, we can contribute to that in the big actions and the little.
Today this Caucus will debate that from this Caucus onward, we will always start our Caucus meetings with the acknowledgement of country.
And that long overdue, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags will always be present when Labor gathers in this Caucus meeting.
But now, what I would like to do is that I know that the formal Caucus meeting hasn't started, but I would like to invite Pat Dodson, comrade, brother, elder and Father of Reconciliation, to talk to us about the meaning of today and what we can do to make this a better country for our first Australians and therefore, every Australian.