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Seeing the con in reconciliation

  • 28 May 2020
Nearly every year, on Sorry Day, I will click on that saved link I have of a Territory Stories webpage, download the audio file and listen to my nanna’s voice recalling her experiences as a stolen child in the NT during the 1930s. Nanna passed away quite a while ago now so it’s pretty amazing to be able to click and hear her voice whenever I like. But it’s also a reminder of the horrors she, and so many other Aboriginal kids, endured at the hands of various governments. There may have been a national Apology, but can we honestly say Australia has rectified the wrongs when more children are being taken than ever before?

Sorry Day happens the day before what is known as 'Reconciliation Week'. Sorry Day itself marks the tabling in Parliament of the Bringing them Home report in 1997 — marking the end of an inquiry into the many laws and practices across the country which led to the Stolen Generations. Reconciliation week itself begins on the 27th May, the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum that granted Aboriginal people the right to be counted in the census. The anniversary of the Mabo ruling in the High Court rounds out the week.

Yet every year, I would swear that this week means nothing more to most people in this country than to call on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their workplaces and community to do more work. I wish it were a remembrance of these important dates and why they should be days which spark pride in the average 'Australian', but instead it seems to be an opportunity to ask Indigenous folks what 'reconciliation' means to us and then call on us to educate them on stuff they will then neglect to do for the next 12 months.

It’s also not surprising when I see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people respond that they think the notion of 'reconciliation' is a mere con. Or they feel it’s a remnant from the Howard years when he tried to water down our political movements. Or they ask 'why is it us that are called upon to reconcile when we did nothing?' I have met a handful in my time that speak more positively about the notion of reconciliation, talking about opportunities for 'honest conversations', 'justice' and 'coming together'. But in the main, I think most are disillusioned.

When I think