Today is the 13th Anniversary of the National Apology to the stolen generations by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. 2021 is also the 20th anniversary for Reconciliation Australia. This years theme for Reconciliation Week is ‘More than a word: Reconciliation takes action.’ This means that we need more Australians to speak up, speak the truth, ask the hard questions and see the hard facts.
The Anniversary of the Apology and this year’s Reconciliation Week theme made me think about how far we have come and how far we still need to go, to become a reconciled Australia. As a non-Aboriginal Australian growing up in Australia, at school, when I was taught about the history of colonisation, they minimised and completely skipped over the traumatic experiences that Aboriginal people suffered. It was not until I worked for NCNS, alongside my Aboriginal colleagues and listened to their stories, and participated in cultural training, that I really got an understanding of the truth about Australia’s history and it was shocking. I could not believe that this information had been simply ‘left out’ of our education.
Since then, it has been really important to me to stand up, challenge stereotypes & mistruths that people around me might have and/or ignorant comments that they may say, to try and re-educate and open their minds as just like my younger self, many of my non-Aboriginal friends & family have been oblivious to the truth.
Although the road to reconciliation has been slow, I have hope that we can get there.
I remember having a heated discussion, a few years ago where I argued with a friend who had a strong belief in his own assumptions about Aboriginal people, the truth about Australia’s history of colonisation, and little empathy for our first nations past experiences at the hands of our government. I tried to explain to them what I had learnt from my Aboriginal colleagues and cultural training but we had to agree to disagree as we could not see eye to eye.
A few weeks ago, I was approached by this same friend, who came to tell me that all of their assumptions had shifted due to working closely with Aboriginal colleagues who had opened up their mind and shared their experiences, Aboriginal culture, and views. They told me how they now had a much better understanding of Aboriginal culture and that they thought their Aboriginal colleagues were amazing people and how they loved the way that their Aboriginal colleagues saw the world. I was so happy to see that someone who had thought so strongly one way, could have such a big change of heart.
This may seem like a small feat, but it is these small moments that can lead to real change.
As non-Indigenous Australians, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the truth of Australia’s history, ask questions and listen to our first nations people who have lived here for over 65,000 years.
It is important to remember the Apology each year, so we can keep this fresh in our minds and work towards reconciliation every day through our thoughts, words and actions.