National Sorry day, Reconciliation Week and Mabo Day mark this week - a very important week for reflection with three key calendar events commemorating the stolen generation, reconciliation and the Mabo decision in the High Court of Australia.
“National Sorry Day (May 26th) is an important time to reflect on the past injustices inflicted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through their forced removal and care.
National Reconciliation Week follows this day. The event is an opportunity to promote and share our culture and history and strengthen relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The third important calendar event this week is Mabo Day [June 3rd]. It celebrates the tireless efforts of Eddie Mabo in seeking recognition of the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the land.” (http://www.qcoss.org.au/national-sorry-day-reconciliation-week-and-mabo-day)
These significant days can be like ‘pin pricks’ that jab us, that wake us up to the fact that there were people here 60.000 years before the arrival of the white fella. These people are the oldest continuing peoples in human history, with whom we need to truly ‘reconcile’.
Much has happened in just over 200 years since European settlement that has impacted the lifestyle, languages, health and development of indigenous cultures in Australia. We are able to access this knowledge more easily and not all looks well!
In my own research and contacts I am greatly challenged by the continuing statistics and stories that confront us. Headlines in articles from The Age such as: “Grog hits indigenous babies - intellectual disabilities are at 50% in Kimberley region”, “Study reveals racial abuse of Aboriginal Victorians”, “Big task to reduce indigenous jail rate - prisoners in Victoria account for 6.6 of prison population, despite Aborigines being 0.7% of Victoria’s population”, continue to appear.
Equally I am encouraged by the efforts of so many people and organisations who work hard to reduce discrimination and disadvantage – for example: “A better voice for indigenous Australians [The Age Feb 4th 2013] writes about standards of representative fairness in parliament.
Identification with indigenous peoples – our ‘first’ people - is critical to our identity and to the outworking of social justice across this nation. I believe that, as each of us learn more about the true history, challenges and possibilities ahead, then we will regain more of the ‘soul’ that is part of us.
Our Melbourne Central Social Justice coordinator says it well:
We require open minds and hearts in order to see reconciliation realised in our communities - we can learn from each other a great deal if make the commitment to listen, celebrate, and be active participants in making reconciliation a reality. (Craig Farrell)
Territorial Social Justice Secretary