National Reconciliation Week 2021 begins next week, running from May 27 to June 3. It is a time for all Australians to come together and learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, exploring how each and every one of us can contribute to reconciliation in Australia. These dates commemorate two significant moments in Australian history: the successful 1967 Referendum when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people became a counted part of the Australian population, and the High Court Mabo Decision - the first successful Native Title Claim. This year's theme ‘More than a word - Reconciliation takes action’ urges all Australians to take braver and more impactful action. This year is particularly significant as it marks 20 years of reconciliation, two decades since the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation (Reconciliation Australia, 2021).
Banner in peaceful protest. Courtesy of Reconciliation Australia, 2021.
So what is reconciliation? For Australia reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples. For First Nations people Australia’s colonial history has been traumatic as land dispossession, violence and racism have all had a devastating impact on people's lives. The ultimate goal of reconciliation for Australia is the acknowledgment of these wrongful doings; that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will have the same life chances and choices as non-Indigenous children, and the length and quality of one's life will not be determined by their racial background (Reconciliation Australia, 2021).
Reconciliation requires action from all Australians. For new supporters of this movement, remember the importance of amplifying First Nations voices and adding your voice to calls for reconciliation and justice. For non-Indigenous Australian’s, being a genuine ally and taking real and brave action is crucial. There is still a long way to go to become an equitable and reconciled country. We all need to speak up, start asking the hard questions and take action beyond just reconciliation week. If you would like to learn more about supporting Indigenous communities in a genuine way, have a look at our article ‘How to be a Genuine Ally’.
“Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” - Reconciliation Australia, 2021
Reconciliation Australia has put together a list of 20 actions for reconciliation in 2021. These 20 actions help allies move from being safe to brave on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Some of these actions include: moving from ally to accomplice, calling out racism, knowing your local history, creating culturally safe places, supporting self determination and acting to protect First Nations cultures. Each of these actions helps us move forward to become an equitable nation. You can learn more about each of the 20 actions here (Reconciliation Australia, 2021).
Close The Gap, photo by Jason Malouin. Courtesy of Oxfam Australia, 2015.
National Reconciliation Week is all about engaging the wider Australian community in reconciliation, and the events are an essential part of this. All across Australia, workplaces, schools, community groups and reconciliation groups will be holding events both in person and online. From art competitions and exhibitions to fun runs and BBQs. You can find out what’s happening in your local area on the Reconciliation Australia website and also register your own event. Lets all come together and take brave action this coming Reconciliation Week, and beyond!
If you are looking for ways to support and are not sure where to start there are a number of amazing non-for-profits that Reconciliation Australia supports including Close the Gap and Family Matters. Donate and get involved with these groups and become an active ally.