Reconciliation is about understanding how history has shaped the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and developing more harmonious and cooperative relations for the future. This includes addressing longstanding inequities and disadvantages experienced by Indigenous people, promoting respect for Indigenous cultures, and giving greater recognition to Indigenous aspirations. Reconciliation is important not only to Indigenous people but also to Australia’s future as a cohesive nation.
The process of reconciliation formally began in 1991 as the result of the recommendations of the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The federal parliament unanimously supported reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and the establishment of an independent body called the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Comprising 25 Indigenous and non-Indigenous members, the Council’s task was to consult the community on ways to improve relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, public education, and developing strategies to encourage cooperation. The Council’s stated goal was to work toward a “united Australia which respects this land of ours, values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and provides justice and equity for all”.
The Council was given a 10-year life-span, which ended in December 2000. The Council’s final report, Reconciliation: Australia’s Challenge, recommended comprehensive action to address the unfinished business of reconciliation. This included calls for a formal agreement or treaty as well as the establishment of a foundation to continue the Council’s work. This foundation, Reconciliation Australia, was established in December 2000 and continues to provide national leadership on the issues associated with reconciliation.
In our local community, with its small Indigenous population, it is essential that the valuing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and culture be a part of everyday life to prevent the isolation and invisibility of Indigenous people, culture, history and heritage.
Main Source: Face the Facts: Some Questions and Answers about Refugees, Migrants and Indigenous People, Sydney, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 2001 and 2003. For more information, visit http://www.reconciliationaustralia.org and http://www.nswrecon.com/