‘Don’t Keep History A Mystery’ is this year’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW) theme. From 27 May to 3 June, NRW explores the facts about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, achievements and cultures – encouraging individuals to consider: what it is you do not currently know about our shared national history?
This week commemorates two important events in the history of reconciliation in Australia: the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision. The 1967 referendum saw more than 90 per cent of Australians vote ‘yes’ to amending the Constitution of Australia to legally recognise the citizenship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – which included the right to vote. This change also made the Government responsible to legislate specifically for these racial groups, as people of Australia. It is widely regarded as a key moment in Australia’s national struggle to establish racial equality.
At the end of the week, June 3 marks the historic day on which the Mabo decision was made in the High Court of Australia. In this significant decision, six of seven judges ruled to overturn the historic error of terra nullius, ruling that this term should never had been applied in establishing the settlement of Australia. By recognizing the existence of native title, this decision enabled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a legal avenue on which to base claims to traditional lands, leading to the passing of the Native Title Act 1993.
Every year on the 26th of May, we acknowledge National Sorry Day, as part of the national journey towards reconciliation. This day first occurred in 1998, one year after the Bringing Them Home Report was presented to Parliament. On this day, we remember past policies and laws that saw Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their families – Australia’s Stolen Generations. We are given the opportunity to reflect on the pain and sadness that the legislation of the past caused, and we recognise the power of saying Sorry.
National Reconciliation Week aims to provoke conversations every year, around the history, traditions and cultures that are sometimes not spoken about enough within our communities. Many organisations and communities hold events throughout the week to mark and remember what has occurred in our nation’s history. The Greater Western Sydney region’s local councils, not-for-profit and non-government organisations embrace this important week with many events and occasions to get involved in as a community.
Even though we have come a long way towards reconciliation, we still have a long way to go. What will you be doing on National Reconciliation Week 2018?
See the Reconciliation Australia website for more information and some fantastic shared history resources.