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The importance of protecting and celebrating our Aboriginal, European and natural heritage

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am delighted that Ms Lawder brought this matter of public importance before the Assembly this afternoon, and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to it for a few minutes.

I feel that it is essential that we do everything we can to protect and celebrate both cultural and natural heritage. Knowing something about our pasts and knowing where we have come from provide us with a sense of identity and purpose. Learning about the richly wonderful heritages of those around us – and those who were here before us – helps us to understand one another and create a society filled with respect and good will.

I recently had the opportunity to visit my homeland. Whilst there, I made a visit to ancient stone tombs built by my ancestors. It was like being transported back in time. I’m very grateful that, over hundreds of years, these examples of physical heritage have been preserved.

I am also grateful for the stories that form a part of our heritage. My stories are important to me and have shaped who I am. I love hearing other people’s stories as well and getting insights into why they are who they are.

I feel passionate about keeping such heritage alive through telling and retelling stories. Young people develop a strong sense of identity as they learn these stories. As the shadow minister responsible for youth, I worry sometimes that we live so much in a world of ‘now’ that we forget to tell children about all that has come before.

As those in this chamber will know, I recently sponsored a writing competition for children and young people called ‘Back to Your Roots’. I did this specifically to encourage kids to go to their parents, grandparents, and others to ask them to share their stories so that the heritage is not lost.

The winner of the primary division, 11-year-old Matilda Jenkins from Wanniassa, wrote a beautiful short story about her grandfather’s experience growing up in far north Queensland. I would like to quote what she had to say about it:

This story seems the perfect embodiment of my heritage: what stood out to me from my research was the toughness of my ancestors. They survived droughts and flooding rains, and ran stations all over Australia. They worked hard and displayed true courage. And that, I’m proud to say, is my heritage.

Matilda will benefit throughout her entire life from the resilience and hard work of her ancestors, which she knows only through the stories that have been preserved and told and – hopefully! – retold.

As we join together to celebrate and enjoy the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival during the second half of April, I specifically invite people to participate in two events that are occurring in the Belconnen area. First, the Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra, which runs its own family history library in the suburb of Cook, will be holding an open day at the Belconnen Library on Saturday, 21 April, from 10am till 4pm. They will have experts on hand to share resources and provide tips on researching family history.

In addition, the Parkwood Chapel, located just four kilometres west of the suburb of Macgregor, will be open for tours between noon and 2pm on both Sunday, 22 April, and Monday, 23 April. This beautiful structure was constructed in 1880 by Thomas Southwell, a devout Wesleyan, and was the first Methodist church established in the area. It has recently been restored by the Southwell Family Society and forms an important part of Canberra’s built heritage.

I specifically invite culturally and linguistically diverse Canberrans to take advantage of the numerous opportunities available during the heritage festival to visit these and other sites and exhibitions and to participate in events. In this way, they can come to better understand and appreciate the Aboriginal, European and natural heritage of their new home, thus enriching the vibrant heritage they have brought with them.

In conclusion, Madam Speaker, I once again thank Ms Lawder for bringing this matter of public importance before the Assembly today, and I thank organisations such as the Heraldry & Genealogy Society of Canberra and the Southwell Family Society for all that they do to preserve our heritage and make sure we never have to forget it.

Thank you.

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