National Reconciliation Week, which officially started yesterday and runs through to June 3, is a time to remember the power of respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. The dates 7 May and 3 June 2012 mark the 45th anniversary of the 1967 referendum and the 20th anniversary of the Mabo decision: two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey.
Last week at a welcome dinner for the National Indigenous Youth Parliament, Aunty Matilda House spoke passionately of the legacy of the aboriginal elders who made such a difference to the social landscape in Australia in the 1950s and ’60s, and increased the momentum for change. The Australians of all backgrounds who campaigned for the “yes” vote on in the 1967 Referendum have a lot to be proud of.
And when the High Court of Australia recognised native title in the 1992 Mabo decision, this was a huge turning point for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rights, and a chance to build a fairer Australia for all of us.
The government’s Apology to the Stolen Generations four years ago was another leap forward, and it’s good to have this week to reflect on the fact that reconciliation is an ongoing process, and one that most Australians are in favour of. According to the latest Australian Reconciliation Barometer, 87 percent of Australians agree believe that the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the rest of Australians is important to our identity as a nation, and are open to learning more about Indigenous Australians’ history and culture.
A sign of this goodwill is the hundreds of events registered for National Reconciliation Week. All over the country, communities are working towards improving relationships and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in diverse ways - including through sport, business, the arts, government and education.
This year’s theme, Let’s Talk Recognition, will be the topic at events ranging from BBQs, dance and music festivals, art exhibitions and lectures to commemorative services. So check out the National Reconciliation Week website and find out some more ways you can get involved in practical reconciliation in your local area.