Thank you JP for that. Thanks very much indeed it’s amazing to be here I have to say.
I was thinking last night how curious it is that when some time ago an old Aboriginal man in East Alligator River sat me down and told me that he wanted to tell me a story- that here we are in Parliament House today, launching the book of the story that he told- how curious and how strange that is. It’s a long way from East Alligator River to here. But somehow it seems right and proper that that story has made its journey.
For Old Man was no ordinary man and his story is no ordinary tale. Old Man Bill Neidjie’s story was a vital story, one that he wanted passed on to his people before he died. His major concern was his people losing touch with their culture and that the values enshrined within in a traditional attitude to life and to country were being eroded by the onslaught of the 20th Century. Probably more than any other Aboriginal elder, Old Man had been prepared to share the values of his traditional life with the outside world in the hope that we could, all of us, learn from the values contained within. The simple eloquence of his words in Kakadu Man and Story About Feeling have revealed so much of the wisdom of looking beyond tomorrow, taking care of country and most importantly, passing on this caring philosophy to this next generation in the hope that they will do the same and care for their ancient land and in so doing, also care for each other as well.
I was honoured to be the person that Old Man entrusted his story to and it has been a pleasure to work with Rhonda, with Rachel, Lisa and Maureen from Aboriginal Studies Press, who put the book together and published it. It’s been a long road but it’s been a good road. It’s been a long journey from East Alligator to Parliament House but if this place be a place where in true representation, all of our voices are heard, then this old man’s voice is one that I hope we will all listen to. As he said, “this one now where we sittin’, here we sit on earth. Only one earth, but this story should be spread out, for everybody”. So, thank you one and all. It’s been lovely doing this and I hope it now goes forth to do the good that it can do. So, bless you Old Man, ‘boor boor’[10:02].