Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship Event Opening Address - Speech, Canberra




31 MAY 2019

Like Auntie Roslyn Brown, I acknowledge that we're meeting on traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and pay my respect to elders, past and present. I acknowledge the extraordinary leadership of Cindy Mitchell as the executive chief executive officer of Mill House Ventures, recognise Maree Sainsbury, Peter Radoll, Dennis Foley, Susan Moylan-Coombs, Adrian Appo and many other distinguished guests here today. I was a regular visitor to University of Canberra's campus during the course of the election campaign and I certainly hope to be back on a regular basis over the course of this term, and I'll say very briefly at the end of some remarks about one of those visits.

When I was at university, I worked as an instructor at Sport and Recreation camps. One of the things we used to teach children to do was to throw a boomerang. One of the great things you can do when you've got a group of kids around and they're looking at a boomerang is to turn the boomerang over so the flat side is up and ask them to tell you the difference between the two arms of the boomerang. Eventually they see the bevelled edge of the two arms sits on the bottom of one arm on the top of the other. When they reflect on it a bit more they realise that it's those two bevels that cause the boomerang as it spins to trace out an arc. In an instant they come to realise the sheer ingenuity of those who tens of thousands of years ago invented the boomerang.

Indigenous Australians also invented the Woomera, a spear throwing device which allows spears to go three times as fast as if they're thrown by hand and to embed themselves with terrifying speed into a tree or an animal. They invented fire stick farming and water bags. White settlers thought they were being very clever when they come and came up with the Coolgardie safe, but really they were just putting into practice the evaporative technologies that Indigenous Australians had known about for tens of thousands of years.

In the 17th century Galileo was asked whether he thought there was a relationship between the movements of the moon and the tides. He said no, they were unrelated. Unfortunately he should have consulted the Yolngu people, who had known for tens of thousands of years before that that the moon and the tides were intertwined. Aboriginal people had been using the stars to navigate before white sailors set about doing the same thing. And if you happen to have a $50 note in your pocket, you’ll see that it depicts David Unaipon. David Unaipon is known as the Australian Leonardo da Vinci, somebody who in the course of his lifetime put in place nineteen provisional patents. Those included mechanical sheep shears and a centrifugal motion machine. He was ahead of his time, but of course faced considerable racism and so wasn't able to get the final patents and the due credit during his lifetime for his extraordinary ingenuity.

Knowing all of this, and understanding University of Canberra's extraordinary commitment to Indigenous engagement, we made a commitment during to assist Indigenous entrepreneurship programs here at the University of Canberra. We did so knowing that the University of Canberra has terrific leadership, both in entrepreneurship and also in Indigenous engagement, led by Tom Calma. The work that you do in engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is first rate. Notwithstanding the election result, Labor’s passion for assisting the work that you do is as strong as ever. I look forward very much to hearing the contributions of the panelists today.


Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.