National Reconciliation Week is a time for Australians to learn about, and appreciate the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Highlighted by the theme, ‘In This Together’, the need to reflect on this is crucial in the process for a reconciled Australia.
One of our 2020 Graduates, Ethan Savage, a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, reflects on Reconciliation Week, especially beyond its end on 3 June.
As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander from the Kaantju, Girrumay (Far North Queensland) and Badu Island (Torres Strait/Zenadth Kes) peoples, for me, Reconciliation Week is a time of reflection, acknowledgement and healing.
The reconciliation process is ongoing and there is still a long road ahead, and importantly, it depends on the support of non-Indigenous allies. The reconciliation process will gain real momentum, only when the trauma and issues faced by First Nations peoples are acted upon. For this article, I offer my perspective on Reconciliation Week, keeping in mind I speak for myself, whilst echoing the sentiments of my family and friends.
The key to reconciliation is education.
Remedying the continuing pain of the past is not a simple fix and does necessitate extensive change across institutional, political and social dimensions. When I look toward my family, I can see passion for a reconciled Australia, but I also witness a lot of trauma firsthand.
This is why education is vital. Change occurs at the individual level, and non-Indigenous people must have both an awareness of and knowledge on continuing issues. The status quo must be challenged and will be an uncomfortable process for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike.
I believe that there are three steps that non-Indigenous people can take to play a part in fostering a more reconciled Australia.
Take a moment to self-reflect on the issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and how your actions may implicitly contribute to an inequitable society. Reflect on how the past continues to play a part in the detriment of our lives. It’s a simple step and is a part of your own learning process.
While this may be uncomfortable, there is room for growth in feeling this way. Acknowledge the reality of the situation such as transgenerational trauma, dispossession and disproportionate representation in the prison system. You can acknowledge these issues and act upon them by educating yourself. Elevate Indigenous voices in discussion and stand beside us, not in front of us.
The final step in the reconciliation process is healing, and is solely for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. If non-Indigenous allies play their part in reflecting and acknowledging, they are playing a positive and active role in reconciliation. It aids mutual understanding and fosters genuine change.
Take the energy surrounding Reconciliation Week and integrate it into your everyday lives. Reconciliation is an ongoing process and must continue, even with the absence of an official event in the calendar.
There are simple things that you can do to show solidarity and also facilitate your education and learning. For example, add an Acknowledgement of Country to your email signatures, support an Indigenous business, or stream a documentary about reconciliation. Share what you learn, create that culture of change and elevate Indigenous voices to the front. For me personally, I’m trying to listen to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians, and more regularly!
This year’s Reconciliation Week theme, ‘In This Together’ is relevant now more than ever. Families are separated by border closures and concerns about the health of our older population weigh heavily on our minds. So, walk with us, appreciate the diversity of cultures and celebrate the richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. If you can do this, we can be proud of a reconciled Australia.