A brief history
National Reconciliation Week extends from 27th May to the 3rd June every year in the season of Djeran and Makuru. It is a time for all to reflect and explore more about the cultures, histories and peoples of the land we are living and studying on every day. NRW started in 1993 with the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation, the year marked as the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. In 1996, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation launched the first National Reconciliation Week in Australia. This year marks a twenty year milestone of Reconciliation Australia, the main body uniting Reconciliation actions across Australia.
The 1967 Referendum was passed by more than a 90 percent voting rate on the 27th May, 1967. The referendum motivated the inclusion of the Aboriginal population in the national census and held the Australian Government accountable to improve laws and better the welfare for Australia’s Aboriginal population.
On the 3rd June, 1992, the High Court of Australia acknowledged the traditional rights of the Meriam people in ownership of Mer (Murray Island), making Eddie Koiki Mabo the first person to receive recognition of his native rights. The Mabo decision has guided a difference in the map of recognition and protection of native rights in Australia.
National Sorry Day
Every year, National Sorry Day is a precursor to National Reconciliation Week. It is observed on the 26th May to remember and acknowledge the Stolen Generations. It is part of a healing process and time for reflection for all Australians. The first National Sorry Day was addressed on the 26th May, 1998. This came one year after the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report, which was a government inquiry into the separationist policies of Aboriginal children from their families post-colonisation.
What is Reconciliation?
As described by Reconciliation Australia Board Member Kirstie Parker, reconciliation emphasises the relationship strengthening between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians. There are five main dimensions of reconciliation: “race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, unity and historical acceptance”. The five sections must be integrated to achieve true reconciliation, and requires us to understand, support, accept, participate and contribute at a collective level.
Reconciliation Week 2021
Formal reconciliation process in Australia began with the recommendation highlighted in the 1991 Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. This has paved the way for many years of empowering activism and advocacy towards reconciliation action and Indigenous rights. After almost three decades of the formal reconciliation process, this year’s theme is more important than ever: ‘More than a word, reconciliation takes action’. The campaign drives further reconciliation actions with courage, sincerity and justice. The journey of reconciliation is about the participation of all, and connections with every individual within our community. Everyone has a role in reconciliation. The theme echoes many ongoing issues regarding the rights and concerns of our First Nations people, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody. There are twenty actions for reconciliation 2021, aiming to motivate words into practice. One of the actions encourages First Nations to “aim higher in [their] higher education”.
Reconciliation and the Curtin Student Guild
Curtin Guild President Jesse Zambrano said the National Reconciliation Week was a time to learn about what happened to First Nations country when Australia was colonised, pay attention to the ways we benefit from this every day, and take action towards reparation for that damage.
“Students can get involved by looking for ways that they can put reconciliation into actions and be part of making tangible change for First Nations justice in Australia. One way to do so is support the Raise the Age campaign right here in WA, to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14. Another way to do so is to Pay the Rent, acknowledge that we live on and reap the benefits of stolen land every day, and pay money that goes directly towards supporting First Nations people.”
The Guilds’ First Nations Department provides support, community and events for Indigenous students around campus. The First Nations Department Representative position is now vacant and First Nations students are encouraged to approach the Guild if they are interested in this position, to take action and make impactful change.
If you are interested in learning more about First Nation’s stories around our campus, click here for the National Reconciliation Week activities guide for 2021, written by Tess MacGregor.