Did you know Aboriginal people were the first to use aquaculture in the world, and have ancient and continuing agriculture, fishing and cultivation practice? Did you know that in 1816 NSW Governor Lachlan Macquarie sanctioned the massacre of Dharawal men, women and children because he felt compelled to “inflict terrible and exemplary punishments” upon Indigenous people living on the outskirts of Sydney? Did you know that there is a strong link between experiencing racism and poorer mental health outcomes and that 80% of indigenous Australians surveyed avoided situations where they predicted racism may occur?
National Reconciliation Week was initiated in 1996 by Reconciliation Australia to celebrate Indigenous history and culture in Australia. This year’s theme ‘Don’t keep history a mystery’ gives us, as a nation, the opportunity to learn, share and grow together as we unpack Australia’s hidden history. Over the week it is important to remember that Reconciliation Week is about discussion, and is only the first step in reconciliation.
We also need to build better race relations by having two-way relationships built on trust and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians throughout society. We need to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the ability to participate equally and equitably in all areas of life including within our government and by ‘closing the gap’. As Australians our political, business and community institutions actively need to support all dimensions of reconciliation.
Historical acceptance is needed. Almost one in three Australians do not accept that government policies enabled Aboriginal children to be removed without permission and more than one in three Australians do not accept that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were subject to mass killings, incarceration and forced removal from their land. We need to acknowledge our nation’s history and agree that the wrongs of the past will never be repeated— there is truth, justice, and healing in historical acceptance.
Reconciliation is a process, it is not a quick fix, so we need to use this week as a platform for conversation about change.