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Reconciliation Week: 27th May to the 3rd of June.

27th May, the first day of Reconciliation Week, the day in 1967 when 90% of non-indigenous Australians (the highest number in referendum record) gave the Commonwealth power to legislate for indigenous Australians for the first time. Prior to this time, each Australian state and territory held this power, to deal with the ‘aboriginal problem’.

The 3rd of June, the last day of Reconciliation Week, marks the day in 1992 when Aboriginal people were given their rights to land in law for the first time, in the Mabo High Court case. This ruling overturned the legal fiction of Terra Nullius.

The overwhelming majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in this country would like to reconcile, despite the horrors brought to bear upon their people, culture and lands. This was evident in the 2017 ‘Uluru Statement From the Heart’, when delegates from most of the 220 Aboriginal nations on this continent and surrounding islands met and came up with 3 simple positions for reconciliation: Makarrata (truth-telling); a representative Commonwealth body that could advise parliament on legislation affecting indigenous Australians; and the initiation of a treaty process. Within 48 hours, these positions were largely dismissed out of hand by the Coalition, the corporate-owned media and by huge numbers of non-indigenous Australians. This highlights the paradox of reconciliation in Australia; those who have suffered want to reconcile, whilst those who are responsible for the suffering do not want to reconcile.

Most Australians do not understand the importance of Reconciliation Week. They ask ‘what has this got to do with me?’ We have a cultural, social and historical collective amnesia about the colonisation process and the stolen wealth upon which we continue to benefit. Whilst reconciliation does not occur, we are a belittled people. It is a common burden we all carry.

Reconciliation Week is a week in which we can all learn something about this history. It is now very easy to conduct your own research online.Think about it. Reconciliation is a personal choice. If we take it up, we have the possibility of creating a more egalitarian community. If we don’t, we will continue to suffer as a people. Reconciliation is everybody’s business.

Joe Toscano, 27 May