“Our nation had been holding its breath for a long time, waiting for three words: ‘We are sorry.’ There was the stubborn refusal of the previous Prime Minister to apologise for policies which had ripped many thousands of Aboriginal children from their family, culture and country—the devastating effects still felt today. But around the perimeter of this chamber sat some of those children, now old people, still wearing the scars of forced removal on their faces.
Finally, as the words rang out across this chamber, across this land and around the world, ‘For this we are sorry,’ the country cried and began to breathe again.
As the speeches concluded, two women stood and handed the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and minister an empty coolamon—and I beg the indulgence of the House in carrying a coolamon in here today. It was the most gracious and generous thing I had ever seen. It was profound, a gesture that made us all better people. Friends, a coolamon is what we carried our babies in, which is what made it such an amazing, generous thing to do.”
Looking forward, Burney stated one of her principle aims for her time in Federal Parliament is to see Indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution.
“Members, in this term of parliament all I want is to be able to stand in this place knowing that the document on which it was founded finally tells the truth. Recognition of the First People in our nation’s constitution is the next step on the path we are walking towards a country that can look itself in the eye knowing that we have come of age.”
She also firmly asserted a desire to improve education, a reduction in the rate of juvenile detention (particularly amongst Indigenous boys), and the eradication of domestic violence.