‘A-ha’ It’s National Reconciliation Week
This week (27th May – 3rd June) is National Reconciliation Week and I’d like to speak quite frankly about something. Over the years both in and out of this job, I have heard statements such as, “it wasn’t me who made those decisions”, “what do I have to be sorry about?” and “just move on”.
For anyone who has ever said (or thought) this, please read on as I too previously felt this way on occasion, until I experienced my ‘aha’
moment. This moment was brought about by being involved in some Indigenous perspectives training for staff at a school. The trainer asked us all to stand in a circle with a beginning and an end. She then asked us to stand in order from oldest to youngest (this was hard enough), she then divided us up into years (those born between 1937 – 1967) etc.
I’d like you all to read on, putting yourselves in the shoes of an aboriginal person, because this is where I had my ‘a-ha’ moment.
For everyone 82 years and older: In your lifetime the first Commonwealth/State conference on ‘native welfare’ adopts assimilation as the national policy (1937). Assimilation was based on the assumption of black inferiority and white superiority, which proposed that Indigenous people should be allowed to “die out” through a process of natural elimination, or, where possible, should be assimilated into the white community.
“The destiny of the natives of aboriginal origin, but not of the full blood, lies in ultimate absorption… with a view to their taking their place in the white community on an equal footing with the whites.”
So an aboriginal person this age has lived some of their life knowing the government thought them inferior humans who should be bred/die out.
For everyone 52 years and older: In your lifetime (1967), a national referendum was held to amend the Constitution. Australians confer power on the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people. Aborigines are included in the census for the first time with 90.77% of Australians endorsing the act. Finally, aboriginal people were counted and had the right to vote.
So an aboriginal person of this age has lived through a time where they weren’t even considered to be part of the constitution. Not counted and not allowed to vote.
For everyone 49 years and older: In your lifetime (between 1910-1970), many Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families as a result of various government policies.
So an aboriginal person of this age may have experienced either having children taken away from them, or may be a child which was taken away from their family.
For everyone 44 years and older: In your lifetime, Commonwealth Government passes the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, meaning it is unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin.
Before this time there were no laws in regards to discrimination.
For everyone 27 years and older: In your lifetime, Eddie Mabo challenged the Australian legal system, and won recognition of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of their land. It decides that native title exists over particular kinds of lands – unalienated Crown Lands, national parks and reserves – and that Australia was never terra nullius or empty land.
For everyone 7 year old and older: An Act of Recognition Bill is passed through parliament (2012). The Bill demonstrates the Parliament’s commitment to acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ unique and special place in our nation’s history.
So before you say or think “It wasn’t me who made those decisions”, “What do I have to be sorry about?” and “Just move on” perhaps
instead, think how you would feel if you were in the same situation. We are all still living with our history however we are moving forward together – with joint aspirations and a national story that contains a shared past and future.