Radio Interview - 666 ABC Canberra - 11 November 2020

By David Smith MP

11 November 2020





SUBJECTS: NAIDOC Week; Electorate of Bean.

PAULA KRUGER, HOST: Yoma to you and welcome, Paula Kruger with you and also co-hosting the program this afternoon until two o'clock is Dion Devow, ACT Australian of the Year award recipient and founder of the Canberra business Yarning Circle. He's choosing the tunes and he's choosing the guests on afternoons today. And Dion, I think the ABC will never be the same. Now, you've chosen to speak to our next guest as well.  Joining us very soon will be Labor MP for Bean, David Smith. Why did you want to have a chat with the federal member for Bean?

DION DEVOW, HOST: I think just because, like, you know, especially for Aboriginal people, you know, we don't really have that much contact with politicians or our local members, whether they're the federal ones or, you know, ACT kind of members. And I've seen over the years people in lots of different ways distressed about different things and issues. And I think we really need to be able to kind of encourage our mob to be able to reach out and feel like they can have a voice and feel like they can take some action to getting things done with respect to whatever their needs or issues might be and empower them by connecting them with, you know, our members of parliament. And I think it's really important. I think sometimes people think that the ordinary person on the street doesn't think that we can have access to them, but we can. And they're working for us. And I think that, you know, that's one of the reasons why and also being the member for Bean, I'm in that area, there's a lot of Aboriginal people in that area. So I just thought it might be nice to have a yarn.

KRUGER: With you right now is the Labor MP for Bean. David Smith, welcome to Afternoons on ABC Radio, Canberra.


DEVOW: Hey, how are you?

SMITH: Yeah, great, great to be with you. And particularly during NAIDOC week.


SMITH: Bit of Bob Marley too...

DEVOW: Everyone loves Bob Marley.

SMITH: It's true, if you have a soul.

DEVOW: So it's so good that you're able to, to be a part of the day's show. And I know that, you know, Parliament sitting today. So you know, it's NAIDOC week and it's also a Remembrance Day and lots and lots of stuff going on. And, you know, I kind of know a little bit about you, but for those who might not necessarily know who you are, can we have a bit of a spill about who you are and where you are and you know what you're doing?

SMITH: So, look, I'm Canberra born and bred. And, you know, I can't claim to have the same connections as the Ngunnawal people here in Canberra where the history in the electorate of Bean goes back thousands of years. Right back to the Yankeehat shelter. We've got evidence of that. But, you know, my parents came to Canberra in the 60s and I grew up in the Woden Valley, worked in public service. But I guess I'm very, much a local and I was listening to what you were saying before Dion about how often we can think about our politicians as being some sort of other group of people. And it's really important to break that down. I'm just another member of the community. My kids go to local schools alongside other kids and play footy and cricket on the on the same fields as the other children running right across Bean.

DEVOW: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's really important that people do see you just, you know, as a part of the community, not as someone that is inaccessible. And, you know, just in terms of constituents and, you know, the actual area of Bean, can you tell us where that kind of encompasses in terms of the electorate?

SMITH: Yeah absolutely, so Bean it's pretty much, southern Canberra, so everything south of Hindmarsh drive and across Weston Creek and the Molonglo valley and unusually enough also to Norfolk Island, which in itself creates some challenges and issues in terms of effectively having a remote community as part of the electorate. But a remote community that's got a real rich, rich history, not always understood by many of my colleagues in Canberra.

DEVOW: Really interesting.

KRUGER: David Smith, it's Paula Kruger here. You've mentioned the importance to connect with constituents. In your maiden speech, one of the first things you mentioned in your maiden speech was, I'll work tirelessly to ensure that this house doesn't simply acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, but actively empowers their communities. It's very interesting reading that line from your maiden speech the day after we've heard that indigenous flags, you know, a vote was, you know, a vote was lost to have indigenous flags flown in the Senate. How is it that you can empower and what is it that you're doing to empower indigenous communities?

SMITH: And that was a pretty devastating outcome yesterday Paula. I think you'll see that resolution come back. Labor has a First Nations caucus committee which allows all members of caucus to get more involved, particularly on issues such as that. But I think it's actually pretty critical that we have some clear symbolic recognition of our First Nations people in our chamber. And so don't think that that won't come back. But it's a challenge. And with coronavirus at times, it can be both a challenge and opportunity. About two months ago, I managed to pull together quite a number of the key First Nations organisations across Bean in Canberra for a Zoom with Linda Burney, a shadow minister and, great First Nations leaders to talk about a lot of the challenges that First Nations people have, not just nationally, but here in Canberra, and particularly with the challenges of closing the gap. So for me, that's the beginning of a dialogue with both our elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Assembly, but also the many different community groups that do such amazing work across Canberra. And look, without wanting to say too much about the symbolism of such things on the same day as they saw a vote go down in relation to something that should have been quite simple, a good thing was that we had a traditional smoking ceremony and welcome to country as part of, Labor's approach to NAIDOC in the morning yesterday.

DEVOW: Yeah, I did see something on Twitter somewhere around that smoking ceremony. And I think it was Billy Tomkins who was their traditional Ngunnawal man. And actually a friend of mine I've known for many, many years. It was really great to see, you know, Linda Burney, Malarndirri McCarthy and other Aboriginal leaders and politicians, there. So you were there? You did attend?

SMITH: Oh, everyone was there Dion, and the great thing is we had Paul House deliver the Welcome to Country.

DEVOW: Oh, yes...

SMITH: And of course, you know, Paul's mum, Matilda, delivered the first welcome to country at Parliament House back in 2007. So there's a great sort of historical connection. But, you know, Paul House, who grew up in the suburb next to me, we went to school only a couple of kilometres apart.

DEVOW: Yeah.

SMITH: Amazing to have that local connection.


SMITH: And then to have that smoking ceremony led by Billy T and then having Linda and Malarndirri and Pat Dodson, who's such a towering figure.

DEVOW: They're awesome. Awesome. And, you know, it's interesting. I think, you know, like around especially weeks like reconciliation, and NAIDOC week, there's, always Aboriginal people called on to speak on, you know, what it means to them, which is fine. But I am actually really interested to find out and to speak with to talk with non-Indigenous people and Australians about the meaning behind NAIDOC and what it means to them. What does that mean to you and your family? And how do you and your family, David, normally celebrate it?

SMITH: It's a really good opportunity to, in a sense, ask questions and have a bit of a conversation around our dinner table. So it’s only probably about a couple of months ago, that my daughter Stella, who's in grade five, received a copy of Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. So, you could imagine the sorts of questions and conversations that come out of that sort of interaction. But I think the thing that really obvious to me Dion, is that there's is a much greater engagement right across our schools, particularly here in Canberra. Compared to when I was growing up. And it means that it’s much easier to have that conversation about why is Pat Anderson the senior Australian of the Year? You know, some of the contributions of people like Pat Turner. We had some pretty amazing First Nations nominees in our ACT Australian of the Year awards just last week. So that's where our conversation began this week.

DEVOW: Yeah. Well, you know, it's so true that so many people, Aboriginal people are leaders in our community. They do fantastic work. And a lot of them are recipients of that award and well deserved to Aunty Pat, you know, I've a lot of time and respect for her. And it's really nice to talk to David. And it's really nice to hear, you know, your understanding of NAIDOC and the fact that you're going you're going to connect more with Aboriginal people in the community like the Warriors Basketball team, and Gugan Gulwan and, you know, it's just nice to be able to connect with you and show everyone that you are a real person, that you are attainable, and that we can hunt you down if we have any issues.

SMITH: You certainly know where you can hunt me down.

KRUGER: I've got a feeling your phone's going to become very busy, David Smith. We better let you go so you can join Question Time. Thank you so much for joining us on afternoons.

SMITH: Thanks Paula, thanks Dion.

DEVOW: Thanks mate.

SMITH: Have a great NAIDOC week.

DEVOW: You too, Happy NAIDOC!

KRUGER: That is Labor MP for Bean, David Smith joining you here on afternoons on ABC Radio, Canberra.