Reconciliation week is one of great importance, for both Indigenous (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders) and non-Indigenous Australians. The biggest milestone for reconciliation was the 1967 referendum, where an overwhelming amount of the non-Indigenous population voted ‘Yes’ to the end of official discrimination and the promise of full and equal citizenship. This was a significant change from “fauna and flora”, as Indigenous Australians were previously recognised. One of our volunteers distinctly recalls these times, and the negative impact it caused.
Discrimination towards Indigenous people was rife, the massacre of at least 20 000 Indigenous people occurred from European settlement in 1780’s until 1928. Although Indigenous people were meant to be protected under British Law, this was often not the case, with mistreatment towards Indigenous people deemed “justified”. Many Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families due to various policies, the main one adapted by all states was known as “assimilation”, in an attempt to “breed out the Indigenous culture”, which to this day continues to affect Indigenous communities.
Since the 1967 referendum, reconciliation has continued to grow stronger with the 1992 Mabo decision, where Indigenous people were finally recognised as the first occupants of Australia, followed later by Kevin Rudd’s National Apology in 2008. However, there is still a long way to go. One of the elders in Carnarvon said to us that often people will say that “it’s in the past, and Aboriginal people need to look to the future”. However, the elder made a very strong point that “WW1 and WW2 are in the past too, but Australians still remember on ANZAC Day”. It’s important to learn from history to move forward, and a lot of the history of Indigenous people has still not been recorded.
There were a range of events in Geraldton that signified reconciliation, and how far Australia has come and where we can work together to continue reconciliation into the future. One of the events was at Gunnadoo Farm (about 30 minutes east of Geraldton), where schools from Geraldton and Mullewa came to showcase their dance groups, ranging from traditional dance, to cheerleading, and jazz. It was a fantastic day, where everyone got involved and helped out. I managed to have a chat with some of the children about why they love dancing, have a listen to the link below to hear their responses.
I also had the opportunity to discuss with people ‘what reconciliation means to them?’. This is one of the most powerful recordings I have done. There is so much that could be said about the endurance and forgiveness of the Indigenous population, but the community voice gives it more justice than I ever could. Listen to the recording and tell us what you think.
I know that this recording has given me hope that one day we can all say we are proud Australians that can work together as one, learn from one another, and put an end to discrimination.