Issue 4
Monday, 01 June 2020
Charles Darwin University
Brenda Muthamuluwuy, Joy Bulkanhawuy and Gawura Wanambi help CDU to lead the nation in Indigenous language teaching
Brenda Muthamuluwuy, Joy Bulkanhawuy and Gawura Wanambi help CDU to lead the nation in Indigenous language teaching

Recognising National Reconciliation Week

The theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week, which ends on Wednesday, is “In this together”.

In recognising the start of the week, Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks asked: “Who could have foreseen when the theme was determined last year how in this together we really would be?

“How many of us – still in the early stages of an epoch that will forever be defined in terms of social and physical distancing – have found time to contemplate how far we have yet to go in coming together to redress perpetual issues of inequity, lack of access and less than even-handed justice in Australian society?”

Professor Maddocks said First Australians had endured 232 years and successive generations of colonial occupation – an occupation that was never negotiated, never subject to a compact that acknowledged traditional occupancy and ownership stretching back as far as 80,000 years.

This year’s National Reconciliation Week marks 20 years since the reconciliation walks of 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation and show their support for a more reconciled Australia.

Last Wednesday marked 53 years since non-Indigenous Australians voted in a referendum to include First Australians in the national Census.

This Wednesday marks 28 years since the High Court of Australia upheld what has become known as the Mabo decision on legal proceedings raised by Eddie Koiki Mabo, Reverend David Passi, Celuia Mapo Salee, Sam Passi and James Rice against the State of Queensland and Commonwealth of Australia.

The case challenged the idea of terra nullius, land belonging to no one; and the Crown giving all land rights to those who settled in Australia.

Professor Maddocks said: “It is 29 short years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed over 339 recommendations to mitigate maltreatment of First Australians in police and ‘correctional’ custody.

“Many of the Commission’s recommendations remain unimplemented today, and First Australian deaths in custody continue.”

It is 12 years since then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered an apology to First Australians on behalf of the Australian Parliament.

And it is fewer than three years ago that political leaders rejected the Referendum Council’s call for a national Indigenous representative assembly to be put into the Australian Constitution.

The organisers of National Reconciliation Week say: “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.”

At the very least, the organisers ask that we, whether together – at a healthy spacing – or alone, take the time to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we stand.