A quarter of a million Australians today walked across Sydney Harbour bridge as part of the fifth annual National Reconciliaton Week.
Dubbed Corroboree 2000, the event saw three federal government ministers, Philip Ruddock, Senator John Herron and Joe Hockey, join the marchers.
Prime Minister John Howard did not attend. Earlier, a Cabinet decision banning other ministers from attending was leaked.
Treasurer Peter Costello declined to join the march after news of the ban leaked out.
John Howard is the member for the House of Representatives electorate of Bennelong, named after the Aborigine who, in NSW Premier Bob Carr’s words, was “Governor Arthur Phillip’s captive, house-guest, interpreter and prize exhibit.”
In his speech yesterday, Carr said: “In 1792 Bennelong went with Phillip to England to be paraded before the court of King George III. When he came home three years later, Phillip’s successor, Governor Hunter, reported that homesickness had ‘much broken his spirit’. He died discarded by those who had used him, and rejected by his people.
“The story of Bennelong symbolises the tragedy inherent in our encounter over two centuries. So there are haunting memories and powerful spirits around this place. Symbolism abounds. But let us not today, or ever again, make mere symbolism a substitute for reality.”