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Young Australian of the Year Speaks Out on Indigenous Issues

AAP
Aug 26, 2007

Australian Youth of the Year Tania Major poses after the Canberra's Australia Day eve celebrations, at Parliament House on January 25, 2007 in Canberra, Australia. (Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)
Australian Youth of the Year Tania Major poses after the Canberra's Australia Day eve celebrations, at Parliament House on January 25, 2007 in Canberra, Australia. (Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)

SYDNEY&mdash:It is "about time" an emergency was declared over the abuse and violence in indigenous communities, a young Aboriginal role model says.

Young Australian of the Year Tania Major told ABC TV that facing up to the reality of history is the only way for Australia to heal and move on from the treatment of indigenous people.

Ms Major, 26, has an Aboriginal mother and a white father and grew up at Kowanyama, a Cape York community.

She was Kowanyama's first university graduate and now works within communities.

She has seen violence and abuse and was herself sexually abused by a cousin.

Ms Major said she speaks out on the issue to show young people they had a way out.

"It's happened to me and a lot a lot of my friends are white and say 'You know Tan, it's happened to everybody'.

"And I say 'But why is it happening continuously in Aboriginal communities? Why aren't people doing something about it?'," she told the Enough Rope program.

"A lot of the young people who commit suicide in our communities have been raped or molested as children."

Radical reforms intended to tackle indigenous child abuse have passed the Senate.

The changes impose welfare restrictions, alcohol and pornography bans, provide extra police, health checks for children, abolish the Aboriginal lands permit scheme and allow the commonwealth to take control of indigenous township leases for five years.

"I'm not sure (about the intervention) but I mean if it's been an emergency for so many years, and I'm an optimistic person, I was just like well, yeah, something needs to be done now," she said.

"If it's working for some people in communities and it's getting in there and doing something now, we've got to start somewhere.

"I mean, where do we start?

"And if it means getting out there and protecting children, I'm up for it."

Ms Major said she loved Australia and it was time to heal.

"The only way we're going to heal in this country is to face up to reality, face up to the fact there was a stolen generation," she said.

"People weren't paid right, my mother was denied an education 'cause she was black.

"I want people to realise that so they understand how to interact with indigenous people - 'cause not very many people know how to interact with indigenous people.

"And I really want that for the future generation - and for my kids to sit in a classroom and do talk about the worries and do talk about the massacres.

"Because we've got to heal, we've got to get over this, we've got to say hey it's happened, why are we denying it.

"And that's what I want."


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