THURSDAY, 26 MAY 2016
SUBJECTS: National Sorry Day, Nova Peris
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody. We will be doing a longer press conference at the Michael Long Learning Centre, but I think this is a great opportunity for me just to make comments about Sorry Day, but also Nova Peris. First of all on Sorry Day. I understand that there's a lot of issues in this election which grab the headlines. But I am determined to use the longest election period in 50 years to talk about people who don't often get on the national pages. I want to talk about Closing the Gap. I want to talk about recognising that this country cannot be a truly equal country when young Aboriginal men are more likely to end up in jail than they are to go to university. It is not good enough in this country that some Australians experience rates of trachoma which would make a third world country blush. We need to do better. This election is not just about some of the issues we have seen covered so far. It's also to give a voice to those without a voice, to empower the disempowered. Fairness is at the core of everything Labor believes. We can't have sustainable economic growth in this country unless we have greater equality and greater fairness. That is why I'm pleased to be in Darwin today lending my support yet again to Sorry Day and a commitment to have genuine Reconciliation which is more than just words, it's about actions in health, in hospitals, in jobs, in housing, in justice. These are the matters which Labor will be committed to and make a national priority if we are elected on July 2.
I am here with our candidate Luke Gosling, Warren Snowdon, with Senator Pat Dodson but I am here with retiring Senator, Senator Nova Peris. Let me just say these remarks about Nova Peris, please. She is a remarkable Australian. The Labor Party has been fortunate to have her energy and commitment in the last three years in the Senate. She's been a champion, not just for Indigenous Australians but for women and indeed for the Territory. She's been a champion on the track, and she she's been a champion in the Parliament. I wish Nova, my friend, the very best in the future. And I have to also say the fact that she is prioritising her family at this point in her life also reflects another attribute which she is too modest to say but I want to put on the record. I reckon Nova Peris is a great mum as well. So I might get Nova to say a couple of words as well and then we will take some questions.
NOVA PERIS: Thank you, Bill. I want to acknowledge that we meet here on Larrakia land. I'm a Darwin girl. Born on this country. But I'm also descendent of the Yawuru, Gidja and Muran people too. Three years ago, I walked into Parliament as the first Aboriginal woman and until you are an Aboriginal person do not criticise me for the decisions I have made. This isn't easy. It's hard. And today I'm here with my mum, Joan, my aunty Juanita who are also members of the Stolen Generation, who have come here today to honour their resilience. It also is a day that 18 years ago that the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report was tabled in Federal Parliament. And we still have a long way to go. A long, long way to go. And I want to acknowledge the work of the Australian Labor Party for the work that they have done in trying to elevate and empower the lives of Aboriginal people. But that will not stop until Aboriginal people are treated as equa ls in this country. I may be leaving but I am leaving on my terms and I want to make this clear - no-one should judge me. I am an inherited Aboriginal women with strengths an resilience that I have had to endure for 45 years. It's not easy to wake up every morning and bounce out of bed and pretend that life is fantastic. Because it isn't. Aboriginal people have no inherited wealth. They have inherited pain. But we have a vision and I know that Bill Shorten and Uncle Pat Dodson who we are descendants of the Yawuru people, people like Warren Snowdon, who is also my old history teacher and a good friend and mentor, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Bill and for Warren and Uncle Pat. The door that has now been opened by me exiting, I wish that person well and I know that their time in Parliament, they will make a significant difference. It can only be done with the Australian Labor Party, because the vision of the Australian Labor Party is a vision of Australia&# 39;s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So I am not going to make any further comment apart from this decision that I have made has been on family and I have to look after my children. Because, like Aunty Eileen Cummings said today, Aboriginal people haven't had to share true moments with their children and I hold that dear to my heart. So these are the reasons and I hope that you respect the decisions that I have made upon that. I hope that my next journey in my life, I'm able to make significant changes, but also continue that impact that I've made in inspiring not only Aboriginal people but also young Australians to also get out and live their dreams. So, thank you.
SHORTEN: You're a bloody champion.
PERIS: Thanks, Bill.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions? We will take a couple of questions if people want about this.
JOURNALIST: Senator Peris why did you make this announcement earlier instead of during an election campaign?
PERIS: Well, I didn't call the election.
SHORTEN: Good answer.
JOURNALIST: You are also a Senator for all Territorians.
JOURNALIST: Did all Territorians not deserve a better explanation as to why you're leaving?
PERIS: I'm a 45 year old woman. I’m am sure you don't go around every single day justifying the things that you do. Listen to me. I am a politician, but I am also human. Now I have messages upon messages upon messages, people from the cattle industry, the Northern Territory Farmers Association. There were ceilings that were broken because of me being a Territory Senator. I broke through ground that Labor has never been able to do in my own backyard. I'm a proud Territorian. But you know, almost 40 per cent of the entire population in the Northern Territory is Aboriginal. When you look at this prison, it's almost 100 per cent filled with kids. You need a strong Aboriginal person in Parliament. But for the reasons I have just given you, I am exiting in a good place. I love the Labor Party. Bill Shorten should make, he will make a brilliant Prime Minister. He really will. This country deserves better. This country deserves someone wit h leadership qualities, that has a vision. People need to have assurances in their lives and Bill Shorten will give that to the Australian people. The assurance I am giving to Territorians is that whoever is going to replace me will do a magnificent job. I am collating all the information and the things I have done over the last few years because I want to hand that over in good faith to say these are the things that I've endured, these are the things that are important to Territorians and these are the things I want you to carry on with.
SHORTEN: I want to also answer this gentleman's question. Nova Peris, like any politician, is here for a finite time. She is choosing the terms on which she leaves. There are another 24 or 25 retirements in the Parliament which have been announced in the last few weeks. Nova Peris' accomplishments are not diminished in my opinion. Australia and the Territory have had three years of her contributing to public life. But she's also a loving parent, she's also a remarkable contributor. I think it takes a great deal of personal dignity to know when you think it's time to finish one part of your career and to do other things. I think it takes a great deal of strength of character, to turn your back on doing one thing and then to pursue other dreams and to represent the causes you do in other ways. And I also want to say this - she has the complete blessing of the Labor Party. I am privileged that I have served in the same parliamentary par ty as this very great Australian. She's brought honour not only to the Territory, not only to her causes in the Labor Party, but to the Senate. I rate her, she's a top human being and I support her decision. Thank you very much.