Ladies and gentlemen, its gives me great pleasure to introduce someone as well known in Queensland, particularly Northern Australia. Senator Macdonald is representing the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott today and has lived almost all his life in North Queensland. He is a senator for the Federal parliament representing Queensland, including Palm Island. So he helps to represent you In the Federal government, along with Ewen Jones, the Member for Herbert and Palm Island. While Senator Macdonald represents all of Queensland, his office is in Townsville and concentrates on the North. He has been involved for many years in the campaign to develop northern Australia, which has resulted recent release of the Northern Australia White Paper. Senator Macdonald has been in the senate for 25 years and is now the longest serving Senator. He was a Minister for 9 years in the Howard Government and now chairs some important parliamentary committees. Before parliament Senator Macdonald was a councillor for 11 years on the Burdekin Shire Council and worked as a lawyer. He still lives in Ayr with his wife Lesley so it gives me a great pleasure to introduce Senator Macdonald, representing the Prime Minister of Australia.
Thanks very much Mayor Lacey and first of all can I pay my respects to the elders, those who are currently with us and those from the past. Can I also acknowledge the traditional owners and thank them for allowing me to be with you today.
Mayor Lacey, congratulations to you and your council and also to Shamika and the youth council for putting on this wonderful event.
My role here today is simply to read a message from the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Tony Abbott. I bring with me the apologies of Mr Abbott for not being able to be with you at this festival and I certainly hope that having seen what I have seen so far, that he will be able to enjoy the Bwgcolman Youth Festival at some time in the future. As you may know Mr Abbott has been in the Torres Strait for some days and that has taken a big chunk out of his time so unfortunately he couldn’t be with you today but he has asked me to read this message.
The Prime minister says:
I am pleased to send this message to everyone attending the initial Bwgcolman Youth festival, many tribes, one people. Over half of the people living on Palm Island are under 24 years of age and this festival is an opportunity for many young people to discuss the issues facing your community today.
The government is committed to working with indigenous communities like yours to create opportunities for young people to achieve their full potential. Every community is different but the foundations of success are the same. Education, jobs and a safer living environment underpinned by better health. That’s why the government is focused on getting young people to school, helping adults to find work, making communities safe and investing in indigenous health.
On Palm Island and across the country it should be possible to be proudly indigenous and a have full participation in modern Australia. Government programs can be a catalyst but success will only be achieved when young people like those here on Palm Island work together to forge a better future for themselves and for their community. There is no greater cause then ensuring that indigenous people enter fully into their rightful inheritance as first Australians and first class citizens in this great country.
I thank the Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council and the Palm Island Youth Council for organising this event and I encourage all of the young people to put forward your ideas in the coming days.
And that is signed Tony Abbott Prime Minister of Australia.
Can I just briefly join the Prime Minister in congratulating everyone here and wishing, particularly the young people all the very best for the future.
It is just so important for young people to be part of the community and to participate fully in all of the good things that Palm Island and Queensland and indeed Australia have to offer. It has been great for me to be here today and see some of the dancing, but not just the dancing but to see the enjoyment from the young people as they proudly demonstrate their heritage.
And Alf can I congratulate you on your dancing as well, I knew you had a lot of talents but I never knew dancing was one of them. But it is so good to be with you, so good to see the young people so heartedly engaged in the community and enjoying this Bwgcolman Youth Festival. My very best wished to all involved and particularly to the young people for their futures.
Before I conclude can I make this presentation to the Youth Council Leaders of three flags, the Torres Strait Islanders flag, the Aboriginal Flag and the flag of our Nation, the Australian flag. There are also a number of wavers of each flag which the Youth Council might like to distribute to young people here today. Again good luck and congratulations.