Thursday, 28 December 2023

Proclamation Day Ceremony

I acknowledge that the Kaurna people are the traditional owners of this land, from the past, today and into the future.

I thank Karl Tamaru Smith for cleansing and welcoming us with a smoking ceremony.

It is my great pleasure to join this community as we come together to mark the anniversary of the Proclamation, first read 187 years ago.

There are many topics which could be chosen for a Proclamation Day address.

For the past two years I have principally spoken about reconciliation and I propose to do so again today. It seems to me against the backdrop of our State’s foundational documents - the Letters Patent, the South Australia Act 1838, and the Proclamation itself - that this is the right thing for me to do as a modern-day Governor.

I do not approach this from a political or a policy perspective; that is not where Governors do our work.

Instead, I approach reconciliation from a personal perspective, and I speak today in the hope my words might provide encouragement to those in our community who seek to progress reconciliation.

Each year, well before this ceremony, I meet a Holdfast Bay group, this year including Senior Kaurna elder Aunty Lynette Crocker, elders Jeffrey Newchurch and Merle Simpson, and Kaurna man Allan Sumner together with Mayor Amanda Wilson and City of Holdfast Bay staff.

I am heartened by the relationship that has developed between Kaurna elders and the Council.

Spending time with the group, it is obvious to me the mutual trust, friendship and common goals that have developed between them.

I am inspired by the relationship they have built together, as well as the way this ceremony continues to evolve.

In 2021, the first year I attended as Governor, Jeffrey Newchurch first camped here overnight to connect with country ahead of the ceremony. This is something he and others have continued since.

This year, the Council, Kaurna people and Firesticks Alliance are coming together to make signal fires this afternoon in Kingston Park and North Brighton.

The signal fires are reminiscent of those which may have been seen by the European settlers as they approached Holdfast Bay.

I thank these parties for offering the South Australian public an opportunity to engage with Kaurna practices on Proclamation Day.

And I trust that other South Australian Councils will look to Holdfast Bay as an example of how reconciliation may be supported in their own jurisdictions.


For the past two years here at the Patha Yunka, the bended gum, I have expressed my support for fostering reconciliation in our state and I have reflected on the past, examined the present and looked to the future.

In relation to the past, I have outlined a view in which we can acknowledge the privations and achievements of our European settlers – including my own forebears - who built a colony now considered among the world’s most liveable cities, while also honouring the history, connection to country and the irreplaceable contribution our First Nations people have made to the land of South Australia.

And I have continued to learn about, and see the effects of, the trauma First Nations people have experienced since settlement.

In 2023, as in 2022 and 2021, it has again been my privilege as Governor to walk a path of reconciliation with both indigenous and non-indigenous South Australians.

In light of the recent referendum result, and the collective questioning of Australians as to how we might move forward on the reconciliation path, I am reminded of the many positive experiences I’ve had this year across our state.

I’ve seen many examples of what is possible when we commit to genuine engagement, inclusion and learning and when we are prepared to talk openly about our shared love of country.

In March, it was my great privilege as Governor to give Royal Assent to the First Nations Voice Bill 2023, making South Australia the first state to enact such legislation.

Just as we were the first state, in 1966, to legislate against racial discrimination and to enact land rights legislation with the passing of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act, and the first, in 1976, to appoint an Aboriginal man, Sir Douglas Nicholls, as Governor.

Executive Council, the process by which government ministers present bills for my assent, is normally conducted in private. On 26 March, for the very best of reasons, it was held publicly in a ceremony on the steps of Parliament House.

I am especially grateful to the First Nations people from lands and regions across South Australia who joined Rod and me at Government House so we could walk together, symbolically, to Parliament for the ceremony.

I am grateful, too, to the many South Australians from all walks of life who gathered that day to join history in the making.

As I have continued my own reconciliation journey this past year, I have seen more of the impressive work that many First Nations people are doing to educate the community about their culture and situation.

This year I have been fortunate to travel outside Adelaide and have often been reminded of the great beauty of the South Australian landscape and the rich indigenous heritage which is inseparable from it.

In Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park, in the Murraylands, Nganguraku elder Aunty Ivy Campbell introduced Rod and me to rock art many tens of thousands of years old.

Located within the International Dark Sky Reserve, the rock art connects us to First Nations people as the first astronomers of South Australia.

At the Living Kaurna Cultural Centre, we heard the cultural and historical stories of Warriparinga, a wetland located in the heart of the City of Marion.

Warriparinga is the gateway to the Tjilbruke Dreaming, the creation story of how many of the springs south of Adelaide were formed.

At Carrickalinga, we joined Karl Winder Telfer and members of the local community in a rededication of a Tjilbruke trail cairn, learning more deeply about the dedicated efforts of First Nations people, including Karl’s late mother Georgina Williams, to share the wonderful Tjilbruke creation story with the broader community.

At Victor Harbor, after a well-attended opening of the Winter Whale Fest hosted by the City of Victor Harbor, proud Ngarrindjeri man Mark Koolmatrie shared the story of the journey of Kondoli the whale.

Listening to Mark made me think very differently about Granite Island and the Bluff, beloved landmarks from my childhood holidays, but for First Nations people imbued with a deep cultural significance.

In addition to connecting me to country, Aboriginal elders, aunties and uncles have been very generous with the time they have given me in discussion on a range of issues.

On regional visits to Yorke Peninsula, Eyre Peninsula, the APY Lands, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Coober Pedy, I had the opportunity to learn about the local needs and hopes of First Nations communities.

These experiences highlighted the importance of listening and learning, and of providing indigenous people, as with all South Australians, opportunities to share their ideas and celebrate their achievements.

Rod and I want Government House to be a place for all South Australians and this year among the many events we hosted, we were pleased to welcome attendees at the inaugural South Australia Women’s Firestick Conference, and, for a second time, the Gladys Elphick Awards which acknowledge the contemporary achievements of First Nations women.

In 2023 we’ve also been struck by the need to create space for the voices of young indigenous people, the future leaders of their communities.

Rod and I have had the pleasure of speaking with First Nations students on a range of school visits - including to Amata Anangu School and Indulkana Anangu School in the APY Lands, Ngutu College at Woodville North and in the Urumbula Garden at John Pirie Secondary School.

We are encouraged by the pride they take in their culture and their love of, and sense of connection to, country.

We are also inspired by the Welcome to Country ceremonies we have seen conducted by indigenous young people, including Jakirah Telfer at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand at Hindmarsh stadium, and Robert Taylor’s daughters at the AFLW semi-final at Norwood Oval.

The visibility of young indigenous leaders in our community supports the advancement of reconciliation while also empowering them to have confidence in themselves and the cultures they represent.

I look forward to continuing this work in 2024, and I invite you all to consider how you may be part of South Australia’s reconciliation journey, now and into the future.

It is also my pleasure here today to present the primary school winners of the 2023 Governor’s Civics Awards with their awards.

I congratulate these students on their hard work and thank them for engaging in one of the most important aspects of being a South Australian – active citizenship.

While spending time in schools this year, Rod and I have been struck by how future focused they are, actively preparing students for the challenges and possibilities of the world.

Students, I trust that preparing your entries for the Governor’s Civics Awards has taught you about the privileges and responsibilities we have as Australian citizens, and I hope you are putting this knowledge into practice.

To the teachers present today, thank you for taking the time to learn about the awards and build them into your civics curriculum.

Students, service is the primary route by which most South Australians visit Government House.

If you continue your journey as active citizens, no doubt many of you will visit the building in years to come. I, and Governors of the future, look forward to welcoming you!

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