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Learning from the past

Thursday, August 23, 2012
How do we learn lessons from past mistakes? That was the question I asked in State Parliament last week when I contributed to the discussion on the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Home Centenary. Between 1912 and 1975 approximately 1,200 Aboriginal girls were removed from their families and placed in this institution. Aboriginal people were deeply affected by the removal and separation from families, including through adoption, foster care and out-of-home care. I do not profess to understand what they suffered but I can learn from the past, as we must all do as legislators. The Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls was operated from 1912 until 1968 by the New South Wales Aboriginal Protection Board and Aboriginal Welfare Board. From 1969 until 1975 it was an institution for children administered by the Department of Youth and Community Services. The former Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Home provided tangible evidence of the government policy of taking Aboriginal children from their families and communities and severing all ties with their culture in order to assimilate them into mainstream Australian society. So how do we learn from our past? There is exciting work on the horizon as a result of the NSW Government’s Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs that allows Aboriginal communities to take ownership of future policy and programs. It will enable the people to have a say in how things will work within Aboriginal communities. The task force through its work has unearthed some amazing stories about the management of issues, consultation and aims for greater transparency. The secret lies in Aboriginal communities taking ownership of their future. Unless they have that ownership there will always be some form of disenfranchisement and the gap will never be closed. A second public meeting will be held in Dubbo on 31 August.

The daffodil is the international symbol of hope for all touched by cancer. Last week I visited Parkes to be present at a local Daffodil Day stand. More than 10,000 volunteers staffed over 1,200 Daffodil Day sites on Friday 24th August. Almost 5,000 volunteers sold daffodils and collected donations across NSW and in Western NSW. Funds will go towards cancer research, important prevention education, and information and support services for cancer patients and their families. One in two Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age 85 - it’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate and stretches across all cultures and communities. In the Western region alone, more than 1,600 people will be diagnosed with cancer and around 625 people will die from the disease this year. It's important that we get behind this important cause.

I was privileged to join Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of New South Wales at the opening of the $13 million Block Cave Knowledge Centre at North Parkes mine last week. The Block Cave Knowledge Centre’s mission is to develop the next generation of underground mining engineers and operators by providing best practice underground block caving experience and knowledge transfer to high potential mining engineers and underground operators across Rio Tinto and in particular the Rio Tinto Copper group. The Knowledge Centre will help Rio Tinto address several significant issues related to this transition and will enable the company to equip the next generation of underground operators with the skills and knowledge they need to safely and efficiently operate large scale underground mines.

Since the beginning of this year, the Government, through Destination NSW, has delivered a total of $5 million of funding across 129 regional projects to develop new experiences and improve existing visitor attractions. One project to receive funding was a new attraction at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo to be known as the Billabong Camp. I joined the Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris to inspect the projects progress. The redevelopment received $100,000 and is expected to open in March 2013. The Billabong Camp overnight experience will provide visitors with a unique bush experience that will connect them with wildlife. This is a brilliant project that will surely boost the local visitor economy by encouraging visitors to stay longer in Dubbo for this unique experience. The overnight experience will consist of 20 tents by a billabong in the zoo’s Australian Wildlife section and will accommodate up to 80 visitors a night.

RUGBY LEAGUE STARS LEND A HAND AT ABORIGINAL JOB MARKET

Monday, July 02, 2012

I had the opportunity to fulfil a long held childhood ambition last week to rub shoulders with some of the Legends of Rugby League, many of whom I idolised as a youngster. Max Krilich, David Peachey, Ronnie Gibbs, Chris Anderson, Terry Fahey, Chris Mortimer, Steve Ella, Nathan Blacklock, Mark McGaw and Andrew Ryan were on hand in Dubbo to support and encourage Indigenous school leavers and job seekers to apply themselves to their studies in order to secure jobs and in turn become champions of their community and personally. The 2012 NSW Origin Legends Learn Earn Legend! Indigenous Jobs Market attracted over 50 stalls offering career advice and training options to match Indigenous jobseekers with education and employment opportunities. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm the presence of these champion footballers of the past engendered among the young jobseekers.  After a long Parliamentary stretch it's been rewarding to spend some time in the electorate helping address local issues. I have spent a large portion of the week meeting with constituents in the office canvassing a range of issues including access to disability services, education, public housing, crown lands, water allocations, law and order and public health matters. I do my best to accommodate constituent requests around the Parliamentary sitting program. I was pleased to learn that further progress is being made over the implementation of improved health services in the Lachlan region. Last week representatives from Health Infrastructure and project consultants were on site at the Lachlan Health Service in Parkes and Forbes to undertake site inspections at both hospital campuses. The project team will visit both towns to evaluate the suitability of the existing campuses and other greenfield sites. The NSW Government has committed to a redeveloped hospital for Parkes and a refurbishment of Forbes Hospital with $2.3 million allocated to planning in the 2012-2013 Budget. I showed my support last week towards an initiative that is working towards sustainably exploiting the regions natural assets in order to provide jobs, attract tourists and create active communities. The Macquarie River Trails initiative was launched about six months ago and last week its glove box guide describing over 100 things to do in the region extending from Lake Burrendong to the Macquarie marshes was launched in Dubbo. The handy sized guide includes a range of activities such as nature trails and cycle tracks, accommodation, food and beverage places, tourist attractions and maps. Diversifying our economic base is so important for the future of rural NSW.  The forecast is that if the Macquarie River Trails initiative can generate a 15% increase in visitation this will see a boost of approximately $33 million of expenditure per year in the region - flowing through into about 330 new full time equivalent jobs in the first three years.

By now you should have received my latest edition of the Soapbox Newsletter in your mailboxes. It highlights some of the ways that the NSW Government has been working for you in Parliament and across the electorate. It includes information on what election commitments the NSW Liberal-Nationals Government has achieved what Ministers have visited our electorate, local projects who have received funding through various State Government programs and a picture gallery showing some of the wonderful people I have met whilst travelling around the electorate to participate in various events. I hope you find enjoyment and relevant information in the Soapbox.

 

 

 

Dubbo: No longer out of sight or out of mind

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Long recognised as the geographical heart of New South Wales, Dubbo is fast establishing a reputation for itself as the preferred location for staging Ministerial events and announcements. In recent months Dubbo has played host to 13 Ministers who have chosen this electorate to spend time outlining important initiatives within their respective portfolios. Whether it is to announce the arrival of more doctors and nurses or the delivery of new services to the community Dubbo has been blessed with choice when it comes to Ministerial announcements. It can no longer be said that Dubbo does not appear on the Government's radar. Long gone are the days under Labor when the Government of the day paid lip service to the interests of this community. The NSW Liberal/Nationals are serious about delivering better outcomes for the people of the Dubbo electorate. I share a long standing passion with many other local citizens in wishing to see Dubbo and the surrounding region realise its full potential and cement its reputation as the true regional capital of this state.

The process starts in earnest this week while we play host to the Ministers for Sport and Recreation, Aboriginal Affairs, Health and Mental Health. Minister Graham Annesley was in the electorate on Tuesday to meet and offer his congratulations to touch football stalwart Neil Webster, a recent recipient of Dubbo's 2012 Service to Sport Award. The Minister was impressed by the high standard of facilities on offer in Dubbo no doubt contributing to its success in hosting the NSW Touch Country Championships for the past 21 years. On the same day Aboriginal Affairs Minister Victor Dominello was in town to convene a meeting that gave local residents a say in the new Aboriginal affairs strategy for NSW. This formed part of the NSW Government’s Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs. On Thursday both Jillian Skinner and Kevin Humphries will be on hand to chair the Rural Health Forum, established to tap into local suggestions, ideas and innovations that will improve health services and patient care in Western NSW. To top it all off it was my great privilege to chair meetings in Dubbo and Forbes as part of the NSW Governments community consultation process in response to the draft Murray Darling Basin Plan. These meetings followed those I attended in Finley and Leeton last week, with further meetings scheduled to take place in Narrabri and Moree.

No one should underestimate the magnitude of the task ahead turning around this state's finances. The legacy we inherited from Labor means that we will not be able to proceed as quickly with funding as many of the worthwhile infrastructure projects the community has long wished for. However the undertaking given upon our election that our commitments will be honoured in their entirety remains in place.

I look forward to working closely with Ministerial colleagues and local stakeholders to help realise this Governments vision for our community.

 

Aboriginal Languages

Monday, September 05, 2011
Linguists estimate that at colonisation about 70 Aboriginal languages were spoken within what is now New South Wales. Today, there are very few speakers of Aboriginal languages. The 2006 census showed there are 804 Aboriginal people in NSW who identified as speaking an Indigenous language. The loss of this rich culture is a tragedy. Reclaiming and maintaining Indigenous language and culture is imperative as it instils a greater sense of identity, pride and confidence in people. The O'Farrell-Stoner Government has made a commitment to provide the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group known as NSW AECG Inc. with $1.277 million to develop the Centre for Aboriginal Languages Coordination and Development. This equates to approximately $400,000 every year, for three years. The teaching of Aboriginal languages in schools also leads to increased school attendance and participation. In my own electorate, the Wiradjuri language will be made available- through a recent announcement of Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli- to students across the Dubbo campuses. I am very excited about this as it is a tangible, real, on-the-ground way of assisting the revitalisation and preservation of Aboriginal cultures in my electorate. NSW recently celebrated International Day of the World's Indigenous people. It is significant that we join all countries of the world in an acknowledgement of the contribution that Indigenous people make to our state's rich cultural life. The focus of this year's international day was Indigenous designs: celebrating stories and cultures, crafting our own future. This theme highlights the need for preservation and revitalisation of Indigenous culture. In my electorate, I am very much aware of efforts being made across the Wiradjuri nation. This year's International Day of the World's Indigenous people, served as a reminder to me of our responsibility to understand that there is a story and a personal experience behind every expression of culture and heritage by an Indigenous person or community. While I acknowledge the complexities of closing the gap in Aboriginal disadvantage, it is clear we must build real and effective linkages between Commonwealth and State governments, put locally driven solutions for economic and cultural empowerment front and centre, and involve independent and non-government voices. While closing the gap is difficult and complex, it starts with leadership from this Government, accountability and simplified service delivery. This year the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Dominello, has travelled to Dubbo, to Tamworth and Myall Creek, as well as to southern Sydney, where he met with a large number of community representatives. Meetings of this kind characterise the Minister's commitment and those of the Government to approach these challenges together, to ensure that everything is locally driven, and to ensure that recognition of International Day of the World's Indigenous People is properly accounted for and delivered in NSW now and in the future.




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