National Reconciliation Week is a time to learn about Australia's shared histories, cultures and achievements, and how we can work together to achieve reconciliation in Australia.
The week's dates are the same every year (May 27-June 3) and they commemorate two anniversaries:
May 27, 1967: The Australian referendum where the federal government was given power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and recognise them in the Census; and
June 3, 1992: The Australian High Court delivered the Mabo decision, the culmination of Eddie Koiki Mabo's challenge to the legal fiction of 'terra nullius' (land belonging to no one) and leading to the legal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of lands. This decision paved the way for Native Title.
But why do we need reconciliation? Perhaps the website Bringing Them Home sums it up best:
"Reconciliation requires the Australian community to recognise and respect the First Peoples of this land, to acknowledge the past injustices, and the ongoing inequalities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples since colonisation, and to commit to working towards a more equal and respectful future."
"Despite showing significant strength and resilience in the face of colonial injustices, members of the Stolen Generations and their families continue to be affected by the trauma caused by forced removal. For many people, this trauma has had lasting, intergenerational, impacts.
"It is important to acknowledge that healing is often an ongoing journey on both a personal and interpersonal level. Organisations such as the Healing Foundation provide support to individuals and communities to help to address the ongoing trauma caused by actions like the forced removal of children from their families."
The Stolen Generations refers to the time when Aboriginal children were removed from their families through government policies from the mid-1800s to the 1970s. According to the Healing Foundation, there are more than 17,000 Stolen Generations survivors, and a third of the country's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are their descendants.
"The children, grandchildren and future generations of the Stolen Generations may experience disconnection from their extended families and culture and have high levels of stress. This creates a cycle of trauma, known as intergenerational trauma, where the impact is passed from one generation to the next," the website says.
Statistics from Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2016 - the most readily available data for people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander - shows of the 24,190,907 people living in Australia at that time, 798,365 identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
Other bureau figures show the median weekly household income for Indigenous Australians was $553 in 2018-19, compared with $915 for non-Indigenous people.
The employment rate of Indigenous people aged 15-64 was 49.1 per cent in 2018-19, compared with 75.9 per cent for non-Indigenous.
Overcrowded housing also hit 17.9 per cent of Indigenous people, compared with 4.9 per cent for non-Indigenous.
Also, the imprisonment rate for Indigenous people as at June 30, 2020, was 2081 per 100,000, compared with 156 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous.
There is no denying we have a problem.
Reconciliation Australia chief executive Karen Mundine said research showed the majority of Australians support reconciliation and value the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
This year's National Reconciliation Week theme is Be Brave Make Change. Make no mistake: this is about what you can do to help the country achieve reconciliation.
Reconciliation Australia lists a few steps we can take, not just this week but in our daily lives. They include:
- Tell the truth on racism - call it out and pay attention to unconscious bias in conversations
- Acknowledge Country - know the name of the land you are on
- Get your facts from media produced and owned by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Fight for justice - get behind causes to reduce the amount of incarcerated First Nations people and the reasons they're there in the first place
- Talk about history - discuss stories of First Nations people
- Understand how to be a good ally
- Support Blak Business - support First Nations businesses as contractors, suppliers and producers
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