Tony Abbott says he hopes Australia will have an Indigenous prime minister “one day, not too far off”.
Addressing the Welcome to Country ceremony at Parliament House, Abbott said that Noel Pearson, “a great Indigenous leader and a prophet for our times”, had observed that Australia was the product of both a British and an Indigenous heritage.
“This Parliament is redolent of our British heritage. But only recently has this Parliament acknowledged our Indigenous heritage,” Abbott said.
The Prime Minister said that on the day the first Parliament to meet in Canberra was opened 86 years ago by the Duke of York, a local Indigenous man, Jimmy Clements was present.
“And that man on the side of the ceremony was every bit as much a symbol of unity as the representative to the Crown, because Jimmy Clements, although unacknowledged that day, carried with him an Australian flag”.
Canberra, Australia and the Parliament had come a long way in 86 years.
There had been Indigenous members of parliament, and a current Liberal MP, Ken Wyatt, was the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives. Nova Peris, Labor senator, would be the first female Indigenous MP.
“Two Indigenous members of this Parliament, in this, the 44th Parliament in our country. May that number increase. May we one day, not too far off, have an Indigenous Prime Minister.
"Who would have thought that the Northern Territory would have an Indigenous Chief Minister?
"But if we can have our first female Indigenous senator, our first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives, if we can have an Indigenous Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, we certainly can have an Indigenous prime minister of this country and we certainly can have in this Parliament, or the next, full recognition of Indigenous people in the constitution”. Abbott is committed to a referendum for this recognition.
The prime minister said he honoured Kevin Rudd for “the historic apology to Indigenous people” and for including the Welcome to Country in the rituals of the opening of a new parliamentary term.