The Bar Association last night hosted a well-attended seminar in the Common Room marking 25 years since Paul Keating's Redfern Speech. Special guest speakers were Bunja Smith, the chair of the Aboriginal Legal Service and LaVerne Bellear, the CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Service. Among those in the audience were Health Minister Brad Hazzard, Shadow Attorney General Paul Lynch, Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord, Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Harris and Police Commissioner Fuller.
President Arthur Moses SC concluded the presentations by directly quoting Sol Bellear, who was interviewed about the Redfern Speech just days before his death last year. In that interview, Mr Bellear said:
Paul Keating’s speech was the most significant speech, Prime Minister or not, has ever made to Aboriginal people in Australia, and not just to Aboriginal people, but to all of Australia. There was no guilt in it. There were no words there to make people guilty.
Mr Moses urged Australia's political leaders to accept responsibility to fix what has occurred:
Stop wringing one’s hands and implement solutions. There is an enormous amount of goodwill on both sides of the Parliament and good people who are here this evening. I hope we can start the journey to stop the increasing trend that we have seen in rates of incarceration and health issues.
The seminar ended with a Q&A session, as well as a reminder that the Australian Law Reform Commission's report on Indigenous incarceration is due to be tabled in parliament tomorrow.