MONDAY, 28 AUGUST 2023
SUBJECTS: Pat Farmer's Run for the Voice; Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY ANDREW LEIGH: Welcome, everyone. Thank you so much for being here at the aptly named reconciliation place. My name is Andrew Leigh, the Federal Member for Fenner and it's a real privilege to be here this morning.
We've got the remarkable Rob de Castella former World Marathon record holder and founder of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation.
ROB DE CASTELLA AO: Good morning everyone and thanks Andrew. Pat, you are amazing. Isn’t this man amazing? (Applause) You’re two thirds of the way through the journey. The conviction and the drive and the effort to highlight the significance of this referendum that acknowledges First Nations people and gives them a seat at the table is absolutely amazing.
He's absolutely amazing. I saw you in Sydney last Monday, I’ve been down to Melbourne and back and you’ve been running all the way down. The fact that this is just an absolute privilege for me to be here.
Like many Australians, I had hardly met an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian growing up, I spent more time with African runners competing against them overseas. But over the last nearly 15 years, I've been so passionate about using running to create a healthy reconciled, and united Australia. And through the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, through our IMP community running and walking programs. Running is powerful. You are leading by your actions, and acknowledging the significance of the referendum and the yes vote coming up.
I think this is one of the most important periods in our history, and an incredible opportunity for us to make a stand and make a real contribution of difference. We see first hand how positive outcomes are achieved when First Nations people are involved in decision making at every level. You know, we have 132 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that have run international marathons. And they've gone on to use that experience and profile to address and drive change on the issues that matter to them. We as a foundation, just facilitate them to have a voice and use that voice to drive action. And, you know, I'm so proud to be here to support you using running as your voice to highlight the significance of this referendum. So congratulations.
LEIGH: We have of course people right across the political spectrum today, it's a real pleasure to have here former Senator Gary Humphries, Gary served in the Parliament alongside Pat, and Gary I’d like to invite you to say a few words.
FORMER SENATOR GARY HUMPHRIES AO: Thank you very much, Andrew, and sorry to be a little bit late. I just want to say, I'm very, very proud to see that former members of Parliament still have some vague usefulness when it comes to important debates that take place in our community.
I represented a party in the Federal Parliament, which had a great reputation and a great history of supporting, promoting Indigenous people. The Liberal party was the first party to elect an Aboriginal person as an Australian senator. We were the first party to put an Indigenous person in as a member of the House of Representatives. I think we're still the only party to have elected an Indigenous Australian as an Australian head of government, if I can adopt the Country Liberal Party for a moment. And I think that that tradition says that we should be continuing to drive that momentum forward and giving Indigenous Australians a voice at this referendum coming up this year.
So I'm very proud to be standing with Pat and Rob and Andrew and saying to the people of Canberra, please get behind this referendum. Vote yes, put ourselves in a position where we have a constructive dialogue to promote the interests of Indigenous Australians and take forward the support.
LEIGH: Thanks very much, Gary. For my own part. It's a real privilege to be here on behalf of the Government to be surrounded by so many keen Canberrans, so many enthusiastic runners. All of us in politics run for parliament, some of us run while in politics. But no one in politics runs more than Pat Farmer. Pat is doing his second big run around Australia, but he's doing this one at age 61. I find that pretty remarkable. He's running something in the order of 80 kilometres a day, inspired by the mass movement that's grown up around the Yes campaign.
To support a Yes vote is to support two simple things. The notion that a people who've been here for over 60,000 years, some 2000 generations, should have a place in the Australian Constitution. And the idea that we should be listening to Indigenous people, when we make decisions. When we listen to First Nations people, we come up with better decisions. It's as simple as that.
Pat’s now more than two thirds of the way though his run, we're going to do something terrible for him this morning, we're going to take him on a five kilometre run, that will get him no closer to his destination. (Laughter) So as if it wasn't bad enough he's doing all this running, he's going to end up right back here. So thank you to all of us for being here. But very particularly, thanks you Pat for running in, I hand over to you now.
PAT FARMER AM: Firstly, can I also acknowledge the traditional owners on which we stand on and acknowledge the elders, past, present and emerging. And I think that's a wonderful thing for all of us to remember those, those exact words. Because we tend to live in a society these days, where as soon as somebody gets over the age of 50, or 60, we want to throw him in a nursing home and forget about them. So we've got a lot to learn from this referendum. And we've got a lot to learn from the Indigenous people of this country and their respect for their elders. So Stirling [Sharpe], thank you so much for that acknowledgement of country.
To Rob de Castella, Rob has been a hero of mine for a long time, But of course, Rob was way ahead of his time, Rob saw and acknowledged the great wealth that lay within our Indigenous runners and our Indigenous people out there, if only they were given a chance. If only given a moment in time. So many people in the communities that I have visited going right back to 1991, when I was up on Thursday Island, doing a run for Diabetes Australia, from the top of Australia to the bottom of Australia to promote awareness around diabetes.
The reason why that was so significant was because there were more people on Thursday Island that had suffered amputation, loss of eyesight and loss of limbs because of diabetes than any other single group within Australia and that was appalling. And it was appalling for the simple fact that all of that could have been corrected through good nutrition, through public awareness and through education.
One of the things I discovered was the punts that were taking the supplies up to these communities, very rarely took fresh fruit and vegetables into these communities because they were hard to keep. And because they were more expensive. A can of soft drink was five times the price of the same sized bottle of water. So you tell me is that right? Especially when people are living in a community where they've got no access to anything else outside of there, and they're relying on those things being brought into them.
So I've seen during the course of this journey, right around this country, not once but twice, not even twice, but the many times I've run different parts of this country, whether it be across the Simpson Desert, whether it be the top to bottom of Australia, whether it be across the Nullabor Plain across Australia, whether it be around Australia. I think I speak with lots of qualification, having visited a lot of these communities that there is a real need out there. And that need needs to get out and have a voice. If things are driven from the ground up, just like Andrew and just like Rob has said, if things are driven from the ground up to Parliament to the decision makers, then we end up with better policy and more effective policy.
As Jim Chalmers, the Treasurer, noted, when I was running with him up on the Gold Coast, it will actually save the Commonwealth an incredible amount of money, which means it saves the taxpayers money, which means the whole country progresses. So this is a good thing for the nation, it's absolutely a good thing. And it's just the right thing to do for our First Nations people to have a voice to finally be recognised in our Constitution. You speak to anybody under the age of 35 and they go, why has it taken up to now? Why do we even have to vote on this? So I'm appealing to the people that are my age, and that's why I'm out here and that's why I put the shoes back on and that's why I'm running around Australia, because the young ones already getting it's the ones my age that I'm appealing to, to say to all of you look, it's just something that just needs to be done.
We need to learn from our kids. Let's not leave it up to our kids to fix the problems that we can fix right now. Because if we don't say yes on referendum day, if we don't say yes, then it will never come up again in my lifetime or in our lifetime, anyone my age and older.
So I want to appeal to all of you. Please think seriously about this, please get educated on the subject. Please look through my eyes, visit my website, see the people I have met along the way, cut through all the rubbish that's being told out there. And let's get to the truth of this matter. And the simple fact that this matter is that the First Nations people, the first people that were here, in this country before many of us ever got here, or any of our ancestors ever got here. They deserve a voice about their own futures and their own destinies, don't you think?
I'd like to make mention of course, Andrew Leigh has gone to a lot of trouble to put this together for me, and so have many of his colleagues and various functions around the place I see people wearing Liberals for Yes, T-shirts, this should not be a political matter this is a human rights issue. This is not a political issue.
Andrew will tell you this, whilst it's been put up by the Prime Minister of the day, this has also been addressed to many Prime Ministers in the past. And this was put up by the Indigenous people themselves, this is a request directly from them. So when you hear anything contrary to that, you know, it's just a lie. It's just a lie. The Indigenous people have been meeting and meeting and meeting and meeting and meeting and discussing what is needed for them. And finally, they have a chance and they're reaching out to us with an olive branch and they're saying please, let's walk this road together.
So let me encourage all of you here today. Walk this five ks together with me, or let’s run it. If you want to walk you can walk it, walk these five ks together with me and physically show your support for the Voice and don't just do it today because I've run into town but do it every single day. All the way leading up to this referendum and let's walk forward into the future together as one nation one people. Thank you.
LEIGH: Thank you Pat. If you'd like to hear more from Pat he'll be in conversation tonight with Joyrah Newman at the Australian National University and you're all very welcome. Thank you everyone for coming along today.