Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Proclamation Day Ceremony

I thank the elders for cleansing us and welcoming us with a smoking ceremony.

I thank Allan Sumner for his address and I acknowledge Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch who has been camping on this land, connecting with country ahead of today’s event.

Proclamation Day is a significant occasion where we reflect on the past, examine the present and look to the future.

I am proud to be a sixth generation South Australian.

My forebears carrying the ‘Adamson’ name arrived here in 1839 from Scotland, aboard the ship Recovery.

But before my forebears and other colonists arrived on these shores, we know that the Kaurna people lived and gathered on this land for tens of thousands of years.

Their cultural and spiritual connections continue to this day.

This does not diminish the significance of the ancestry of other South Australians, but it does place it in a broader, richer context.

A context in which we can acknowledge the privations and achievements of our earliest settlers who built a colony, now ranked among the world’s most liveable cities, while also acknowledging the unique history and special connection to country that Aboriginal people have with the land of South Australia.

Fostering reconciliation was a priority for me in my former role as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as was supporting the development, led by my indigenous colleagues, of an Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda, a key aim of which is to maximise opportunities for Indigenous Australia in a globalised world.

To be effective, our diplomats who represent Australia overseas need to be able to speak knowledgeably about the richness and complexity of our country’s history, the proud cultures of our indigenous peoples and the challenges we face and are seeking to address.

Fostering reconciliation is also a priority for me as Governor.

Before I was sworn in, I re-read South Australia’s foundational documents, including the Letters Patent.

I could only dimly recollect them from my school days and expect many, perhaps most, South Australians would be in a similar position.

The Letters Patent were presented to King William IV in February 1836 to establish the Province of South Australia.

Having learned of how Aboriginal people were treated by colonists in other Australian settlements, particularly Van Diemen’s Land, His Majesty was keen to avoid these outcomes in South Australia.

Accordingly, the Letters Patent stated that Aboriginal people should be allowed to occupy and enjoy their lands.

This instruction is echoed in the Proclamation itself, which I read out earlier this morning.

And in 1838, the South Australia Act was also amended to reflect the wording of the Letters Patent, removing the reference to ‘waste and unoccupied lands’.

We know that these good intentions did not come to fruition.

South Australia’s First Nations people were dispossessed of their lands, languages and culture, decimated by disease and violence.

And none more so than the Kaurna who suffered the full impact of the establishment of the new colony.

Today, 185 years since the Proclamation of South Australia, we are on a journey of reconciliation.

We have made progress.

We are proud that South Australia, in 1966, was the first state to legislate against racial discrimination, and the first state to enact Aboriginal land rights legislation with the passing of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966.

This year also marks half a century since our State became the first place in Australia to fly the Aboriginal flag – in Tarntanyangga, Victoria Square.

But looking to the future, if we want to better embody the spirit of the Letters Patent, there is more we can do.

It was my privilege to meet recently with elders Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch and Aunty Merle Simpson, as well as the Holdfast Bay mayor and staff, at the Council’s award-winning exhibition, ‘Tiati Wangkanthi Kumangka’ where I also learned of senior Kaurna elder Aunty Lynette Crocker’s pivotal role as co-curator.

The exhibition shows we can elevate indigenous voices and make more room for indigenous people to share their perspectives, their stories and their points of view.

Together we can also create a larger narrative.

While the exhibition took only six months to realise, it came after nearly 30 years of dialogue between the City of Holdfast Bay and Kaurna elders.

It was the relationships which had been formed through conversation and debate which allowed this exhibition to be realised.

As a diplomat, I learned that when parties come to the table with generosity and goodwill, mindful of the past, aware of history and willing to work together, new possibilities open up.

This was evident in the collaboration behind the repatriation ceremony earlier this month at Wangayarta, Smithfield Memorial Park.

The remains of 100 Kaurna old people were returned to country from the South Australian Museum, in a Kaurna-designed memorial site, the first of its kind in the world.

It is evident in Tarrkarri, the newly launched project for a Centre for First Nations Cultures at Lot 14, which is seeing the state government working in close partnership with Aboriginal communities to develop an iconic place of belonging, healing, reconciliation and pride for the people of South Australia.

I thank Holdfast Bay for leading the evolution of the Proclamation Day ceremony.

As Governor, I stand willing to support South Australia as it walks the reconciliation pathway.

At Government House we are taking our own steps.

We are erecting new flagpoles to permit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags to fly alongside the Australian National Flag and the flag of South Australia, and we are commencing a process of culturally mapping our site pre- and post-settlement.

We want to incorporate a more complex and complete historical understanding into our appreciation and our presentation of the site - to make it even more truly a Government House for all South Australians.

In this way we hope to contribute to the truth-telling efforts seen elsewhere in our community; to share stories that may previously have been hidden or interpreted in very specific ways.

I know that, by virtue of being here today, you have an interest and pride in our state and its history.

I hope you may take the time to consider what you know and where there may be new stories for you to learn as well as older ones to tell.

Returning to South Australia after many years away, I have been struck by our state’s sense of community.

I have seen how people come together, as demonstrated throughout the pandemic.

I have no doubt we can work in this spirit of collaboration and action to break new ground on the path to reconciliation.

After all, we have come so far in so many ways – in our built environment, our newly won status as a National Park City, our scientific achievements, in agriculture, manufacturing and services, business, the arts, sport.

Progress which would have been beyond the imaginations of those present on that first Proclamation Day 185 years ago.

There is to my mind nothing that we can’t achieve together!


Thank you.

Her Excellency the Honourable Frances Adamson AC

Governor of South Australia

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