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    Premier and Minister for the Arts
    The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

    Speech: State Funeral of Dr Evelyn Scott

    Premier and Minister for the Arts
    The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

    Friday, October 06, 2017

    Speech: State Funeral of Dr Evelyn Scott

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    To the family of Dr Evelyn Scott AO – on behalf of the people of Queensland, please accept our deepest condolences. Your loss is our loss.

    To Evelyn’s children – her son, Sam Backo; daughters Dolores Scott, Charmaene Scott, Kathrine Scott, Jewel Scott; and her seven grandchildren, we thank you for sharing your time with her, with us.

    Your generosity allowed Evelyn to work so tirelessly for the advancement of all indigenous Australians, and to strive towards reconciliation with non-indigenous Australians.

    To these struggles, she brought a quietly spoken determination, dignity, persuasion and that distinctive black felt hat.

    Struggles only exist when there is an opposing force.

    And too often in the history of our State, that opposing force was the Government of the day.

    Too often, the Government of the day was focussed on the management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, with no objective or ambition to achieve equality of opportunity for all - least of all the First Australians.

    Too often, the Government of the day used the laws and the institutions imported with European settlement to disempower the traditional owners.

    These Governments were combative - from biased and culturally insensitive administrative decisions about the custody and welfare of children, the payment of wages to landmark court cases like Koowarta versus Bjelke-Petersen, The Wik Peoples versus the State of Queensland, and Mabo and Others versus the State of Queensland.

    When Evelyn was born in the 1930s, there was no right to vote at Commonwealth or Queensland elections, the Commonwealth did not have the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders or to count them in the national Census along with all other Australians.

    The referendum to right those wrongs - in 1967, 50 years ago this year - was a clarion call to Evelyn, who campaigned successfully for the “Yes" vote from so many Queenslanders.

    Indeed, almost nine in 10 votes cast by Queenslanders was “Yes”.

    As the first General-Secretary for the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders and as Chair of Cairns and District Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Women, Evelyn helped improve access to legal, housing, employment and medical services for communities.

    Then in 2000 - as national Chair of the Council of Aboriginal Reconciliation - Evelyn once again called on Australians to be counted when she inspired hundreds of thousands of us to march for reconciliation.

    She was committed to the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and the advancement of indigenous women - and I am proud to be joined here today by Leeann Enoch, the first indigenous woman to serve as a Minister in a Queensland Government.

    For her work, Evelyn was awarded The Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 1977, the Centenary Medal in 2001, the Order of Australia and a Queensland Great (both) in 2003.

    Ladies and gentlemen, Governments – including my own - are working with communities and NGOs to Close the Gap for the improvement of health and education services and outcomes for indigenous people.

    And as this work continues, today I call on all Australians - including those of us who marched 17 years ago - to close the gap in our understanding, in our hearts and in our conscience that would deny our country a true reconciliation.

    As Evelyn said:

    "In true reconciliation, through the remembering, the grieving and the healing, we can come to terms with our conscience and become as one in the dreaming of this land.

    "What a rich and valuable heritage to leave our children — a 56,000-year culture, thriving in a country at peace with its conscience.

    "Will you take our hand?

    "Will you dare to share our dream?”

    Dr Scott - thanks to you – today we reach out our hands and we dare to share your dream.

    Vale Dr Evelyn Scott AO.