Held annually since 1996, the 27th of May until the 3rd of June marks National Reconciliation Week. It is a significant occasion in Australia’s shared history. The week is a major occasion for all Australians to re-explore momentous steps and events of our common history with Aboriginal communities. National Reconciliation Week is also an invitation, for all citizens, to consider the role they may play in the process of reconciliation in the country.
Significant milestones of Australian history mark out the beginning and end dates of the week.
The opening date refers to the historical referendum held on May 27th, 1967. This referendum, overwhelmingly endorsed by 90.77% of the population, allowed the Australian government to create laws that applied to Aboriginal people. The Australian federal government then became authorised to legally support these communities and help them to overcome the multiple inequalities they faced. It also paved the way for notable rules, laws and acts in favour of Aboriginal communities.
The closure date marks the Mabo decision. This decision, passed on June 3rd, 1992, is named after Eddie Mabo, an Indigenous Australian from the Torres Strait Islands who campaigned for the recognition of Indigenous people as the traditional owners of the land in Australia. After his death in January 1992, five months passed before the High Court finally rejected the doctrine of terra nullius (in Latin: a territory without an owner) pronounced by English people after settling in Australia in 1788. This decision was consolidated one year after with the vote of the Native Title Act.
In this together: a strong theme for this year
Karen Mundine (CEO of Reconciliation Australia) announced that this year’s theme of ‘In this together’ reinforces the idea that everyone has a role to play when it comes to improving relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities and other Australian people. This week is also a moment for Australian people to consider how, together, they can achieve a better sense of community, justice and fairness.
Furthermore, ‘In this together’ resonates differently in the shadow of COVID-19. The pandemic has underlined the importance of strong social structure, and how important it is for people to be able to rely on each other in tough times, to strengthen links in the community.
This year is also the 20th anniversary of the Corroboree 2000 Bridge Walk in Sydney. On May 28th, 2000, an estimated 250,000 people from all walks of life, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, marched on the Sydney Harbour Bridge to show their support of, and desire for reconciliation between these communities. This manifestation was one of the most important within Australian history and underlines the utter importance of recognising National Reconciliation Week today.
This event is essential to celebrate great achievements in Australia’s shared history and to encourage people to build a brighter future together. Because physical gatherings are not allowed currently, multiple online events have occurred, hosted by Reconciliation Australia, to celebrate this special week.
And as this week draws to a close, we reflect on what it means for us at ProudRoots. At ProudRoots, we stand together to unite Indigenous peoples of the Pacific. Operating on Whadjuk Noongar land, we work together to provide better outcomes for Indigenous people. We’re in this together – that’s the very core that makes up ProudRoots.