So, what is National Reconciliation Week?
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for learning, for strengthening relationships and for raising awareness. It’s a time for all Australians to come together to reflect on our shared histories, cultures, and achievements for one vital goal; a moment for Australia to achieve reconciliation.
Annually, NRW runs from 27 May to 3 June to commemorate two important events in Australia’s history. That is, the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo land rights decision. Quite ironically the theme this year is #inthistogether which is rather fitting given the state of the world, don’t you think?
The year 2020 marks the twentieth anniversary of the first Reconciliation Walk in 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation to show their support for a more reconciled country.
NRW kicks off each year on National Sorry Day, held on 26 May. This is a significant date in Australia’s history that acknowledges and remembers the Stolen Generation, it is a time for reflection of the grief, suffering, of injustice experienced and a time for healing. On this day in 1997, the Bringing Them Home report was conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, involving a National Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.
So, why do we have a National Reconciliation Week?
By acknowledging the history of Indigenous Australia, pre and post colonisation, only then can we begin to understand the necessity for a more reconciled country.
If we can first recognise and further understand our history through improved education (starting in schools!), we can then come together to support a broader vision for the future. This begins with improving:
- race relations (overcoming racism)
- equality and equity (equal range of opportunities and the unique rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are recognised)
- institutional integrity (active support by the nation’s political, business and community structures)
- unity (recognise Australia’s First Peoples in our Constitution)
If you’ve ever asked yourself “Yes, but what will this look like in the future?” This is it: Reconciliation Australia proposes a nation where:
1. Australians value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous cultures, rights and experiences.
2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to basic rights such as health and education.
3. Political, business and community structures uphold equal opportunity for all Australians.
4. Australian society recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and heritage as a part of the nation’s identity.
Oops, I should also mention. NRW is not to be confused with NAIDOC week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) which is observed in July each year. The purpose of NAIDOC week is to celebrate the history, culture, arts and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Timeline of events through history:
I’m ashamed to admit how much I learned through conducting the research for this week’s blog, especially when some of the events below are so recent. Nevertheless, if I learned something new, there’s a good chance you might too, and that can only be a good thing.
- 1948 – Indigenous people are considered Australian citizens.
- 1962 – Indigenous people gain the right to vote in federal elections as per changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
- 1967 – The Referendum acknowledges a desire to extend equal rights to Indigenous people (2 sections of the Constitution were amended), and Indigenous people are included in the census.
- 1910-1970 – The years of the Stolen Generation (also the generations of Stolen Wages)
- 1970 – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are allowed bank accounts.
- 1992 – High Court Mabo land rights decision is announced, rejecting terra nullius (Latin for nobody’s land)
- 1993 – Subsequently, the Mabo land rights decision, also known as the Native Title Act 1993 legally recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as having a continuous relationship with the land and thus are traditional custodians of Australia, for the first time.
- 2000 – The first Reconciliation Walk takes place, where 250,000 people (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) made their way across Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- 2008 – Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd makes a national apology to the Stolen Generations (as per the National Inquiry.)
Where we’ve come from:
It’s important for non-Indigenous Australians and visitors alike to understand that there are many people alive still today who:
- Were forcibly removed from their parents under government policy.
- Had their children taken away.
- Were not allowed in towns after six at night.
- Were not allowed to be in certain areas without permission.
- They were barred from schools and hospitals.
- Returned from War(s) only to find they did not have the same rights as white people.
- Have not enjoyed the same rights as others, simply because they were Indigenous.
Source: Share our Pride
It begs the question why were we never taught this in school, why aren’t these issues coming up more in conversation and for the love of all things, why can’t we be more like New Zealand?
So, how we can act this National Reconciliation Week?
I think we can all agree that since 2008, it feels as if little has changed or progressed. We can, however, celebrate that it is now forbidden to climb the sacred site of Uluru. And, those living in the ACT now have a public holiday on 1 June to commemorate Reconciliation Day (observed since 2018).
While there is a lot more that needs to improve from the top, there is plenty of work to be done on ground level where we can get involved in our local communities.
Here are some ways you can get involved:
- Self-education (more on that below).
- Connect with local communities, not-for-profits or charities to see what initiatives they’re working on or projects they’re supporting.
- Defend first nations people by refusing to accept or ‘let go’ of derogatory comments you hear.
- Volunteer or donate to indigenous organisations or causes (including Garma, Nasca, AIATSIS, Seed Mob or even local community groups, art galleries, and theatres)
- Contract with Indigenous suppliers by using Supply Nation, a national directory of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses.
Accounts to follow on IG:
Just a few I found but there are plenty more, once you follow one, you’ll find plenty more in your area.
Books to read:
Dark Emu & The little red yellow black book – by Bruce Pascoe
Welcome to Country – by Marcia Langton
Talking to my Country & Australia Day – by Stan Grant
Truganini – by Cassandra Pybus
Sand talk – by Tyson Yunkaporta
Tracker – by Alexis Wright
Top end girl – by Miranda Tapsell
Born-again blackfella – by Jack Charles
Films to watch:
Rabbit Proof Fence, Samson and Delilah, Australia, The Sapphires, Top End Wedding, Bran Nue Dae, Mystery Road (now a TV series on ABC), Servant or Slave.
Information about reconciliation week:
Broken down, easy to digest facts and myths about Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Australians:
Not sure what land you’re on? Check out this map of Indigenous Australia:
I think we can all agree, as per Dennis Denuto “In summing up, it’s the Constitution, it’s Mabo, it’s justice, it’s law, it’s the vibe, and… no that’s it…it’s the vibe… I rest my case.”
I’m excited to see our nation start to get with the vibe by bridging the gap for real equality, for understanding and for reconciliation.
Until then xo
PS: Want more from the blog? Learn how travel can help bring reconciliation to Australia’s first people here.