Ensuring Indigenous Australians share equally in the wealth of the nation is essential to realising reconciliation, according to Indigenous advocate and Charles Darwin University academic Professor Reuben Bolt.
In a video address to the CDU community, the Pro Vice -Chancellor Indigenous Leadership (PVCIL) said reconciliation meant many different things to different people.
“Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is not straightforward, particularly when we consider the complexity of the colonial history of Australia,” Professor Bolt said.
“For me, when I think about reconciliation, I believe we need to agree on some key points: that there is a difference of opinion and that the context that informs our position is valid in its own right.
“There is undoubtedly a politics of recognition and to overcome this politicisation we must focus on an overarching goal or outcome of reconciliation.
“I believe that is to achieve equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”
Professor Bolt, a descendant of the Yuin/Wandandian and Ngarigo peoples on the south east coast of Australia, said accepting differences of opinion, particularly in relation to sovereignty, was needed to move forward.
“Indigenous Australians have never ceded their sovereignty,” he said. “And there is no documented evidence that suggests otherwise.
“On the other hand, the Australian Government asserts its sovereignty, in the context of the colonial expansion of Europe. This sovereignty is not recognised by many Indigenous Australians.
“Instead of focusing on the divisions of the debate we must instead think about what we can agree upon and move forward together as Australians.”
Professor Bolt said tackling the continued inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was paramount to reconciliation.
“That is what reconciliation means to me,” he said. “Reconciliation is an opportunity to work together to address the disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“Indigenous peoples must be part of that discussion and must be heard. Give us a sense of agency, when we interact. Let us determine the issues for improvement in our communities, and then we can work together to develop the strategies and actions required to close the gap.
“At CDU we provide support services for Indigenous students in their higher education endeavours. To date we have graduated more than 1000 Indigenous students in higher education, and some 13,000 in VET.
“We are doing our bit. So, let’s work towards ensuring Indigenous Australians receive an equity share of the wealth of this nation.”
Professor Bolt said the theme for this year’s Reconciliation Week was “We’re in this Together”.
“There is no other time in recent history that exemplifies this point more than now with the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “Let’s work together to make this happen. We’re in this together.”
National Reconciliation Week runs 27 May to 3 June every year. To hear Professor Bolt’s Reconciliation Week webcast visit W: https://youtu.be/gZvFm3xzjsc