The National Reconciliation Week is dedicated to mending relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and other Australians. It’s set up for Australians to learn about the shared histories and achievements, and to allow every Australian to take part in that reconciliation.
NRW takes place from 27th May to 3rd June every year. These two dates represent a significant milestone in the reconciliation journey so far, with 27th May being the date of the successful referendum of 1967, and 3rd June being the High Court Mabo decision.
A brief history of NRW
The National Reconciliation Week began as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation in 1993 (the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People), and it was supported by Australia’s major faith groups.
The NRW was then launched in 1996 by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. In 2001, the Reconciliation Council was established to provide leadership for the reconciliation process. During the NRW in 2001, about 300,000 Australians walked across bridges in cities and towns to signify their support.
Today, NRW has evolved to an event being celebrated by schools, workplaces, community organisations, and individuals country-wide.
Milestones in the history of the NRW
The referendum of 1967: Australians voted to remove the clause in the Constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the 27th of May.
Week of Prayer for Reconciliation: The first instance of NRW in 1933 and was supported by Australia’s major religious groups.
Mabo Decision in 1992: During the Mabo decision, the High Court of Australia recognised that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had rights over their lands after British colonisation.
National Sorry Day, 1998: National Sorry Day is the day before the beginning of NRW, commemorated to remember the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were taken from their families.
Dimensions of reconciliation
According to the reconciliation council, there are five dimensions of reconciliation.
1. Race relations
All Australians should understand and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-indigenous cultures. Their rights and experiences must also be respected.
2. Equality and Equity
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples engage in the various opportunities available for leading a quality life.
3. Institutional Integrity
The support of reconciliation by the nation’s political, business and community structures
The recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and heritage as a proud part of shared national identity
5. Historical Acceptance
All Australians understand and accept wrongs in the past done towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, make amends, and ensure that the wrongs are never repeated.
More than a word: reconciliation takes action
The theme of this year’s NRW is, “more than a word: reconciliation takes action.” And to that effect, the reconciliation council is urging every Australian to take a meaningful step, whether it’s organising an event in their community, attending one, or starting conversations with friends.
The NRW website suggests 20 actions for the reconciliation this year, and they range from disrupting the status quo to learning how to be an ally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The actions are also split into ‘safer’ and ‘braver‘ categories, with the latter requiring more involvement than the former.
Many of the actions can be completed online, such as the following:
Move from ally to accomplice
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up only 3% of the Australian population and are thus unable to raise the necessary profile of important issues. You can sign up to become an ally for them.
Call out racism
Use resources like Racism No Way to check your unconscious biases about race, and be prepared to call out racism wherever you spot it.
Know your local history
Reading up, and starting community conversations around the massacres, forced removals, and other terrible acts done to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Make reconciliation everyone’s business
This charges participants to get everyone involved in reconciliation, whether by starting a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in the workplace or by joining a RAP working group.
Support economic development
Discrimination can find its way into employment, education, housing, and other crucial elements of economic growth. This action step involves understanding the historical cue of poetry and economic disempowerment and finding ways to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
More information on the National Reconciliation Week on the official website.
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