At the heart of reconciliation is the relationship between the broader Australian community with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is important for all Australians to learn about and celebrate the rich diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories. To achieve reconciliation, we need to develop strong relationships built on acknowledgment, respect, and that are free of racism.
Reconciliation means acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this land and recognising that these peoples were dispossessed, persecuted and oppressed as a result of colonisation in Australia. Reconciliation involves developing our understanding of how these histories continue to shape contemporary Australian society and ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures are treated with dignity and respect at all times. Reconciliation is often best understood as a journey. We – as individuals, schools, organisations and as wider communities – can take important steps towards reconciliation every day. There have been some significant events that stand out in Australia’s journey towards reconciliation, such as the historic Reconciliation Walk in 2000 when over 250,000 people marched across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to show their support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their desire to see a reconciled Australia. While milestone events such as this are vital in the journey to reconciliation, it is also important to remember that even small actions in local communities, such as acknowledging Traditional Owners at school assemblies and flying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, are meaningful steps towards reconciliation.
We need to include Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in our communities so that we can a learn from one another and develop a real awareness, understanding, appreciation and respect for the culture and history of Indigenous Australia … Its basis is the inclusion of the Indigenous peoples of Australia, not their exclusion. And that is healing for all of us.
Flora Macdonald from the ACT Branch of Australians for Reconciliation