This statement is an extract from the Fifth Annual Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, delivered by the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser on 24 August 2000. The full text of the lecture is displayed on the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR) website (archived files):
The extract is reprinted with the permission.
Let me speak to the role of government. There have been some suggestions that in the future reconciliation must become more and more a peoples movement. In one sense people have responded to that by marching with their feet. But in another sense, it is wrong. Issues of race are always the hardest to resolve, especially when the issue involves property.
They are most unlikely to be resolved by the initiative of citizens alone unless those citizens so hound their politicians that the politicians become frightened not to act. But that happens rarely. 50,000 people in Brisbane, 250,000 in Sydney, 55,000 in Adelaide and 20,000 in Hobart represent a good start, and governments should take note. This is an issue on which votes will change.
But it is the government that is informed, it is the government that is meant to have all the facts, it is the government that has resources, authority and power, it is the government whose files contain the evidence of the past that today we condemn.
In a matter so critical to the future of society and the future of Australia, it is not reasonable to say the community must lead. The community and its actions are an important component but it is the government that must be to the fore and persuade all Australians that we must act with greater expedition and with greater generosity. government, if not this one, then another, will set the pace.
Amidst the disappointments, which are substantial, we should not forget that substantial and material progress has and is being made. That it is not as much as we would want is not a reason to be disheartened.
Progress made is a reason to continue to use our powers of advocacy to convince governments that governments must act and, if government will not act, this is a matter on which people must act to secure a government that will. The dignity and self-esteem of Australia demand it.