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NATIONAL RECONCILIATION WEEK is celebrated each year across Australia between 27 May and 3 June. The dates are important as they commemorate two significant milestones in our shared histories: the anniversaries of the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision.
The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2015 is It’s time to change it up, in reference to the debate around the issue of Constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. There is also, perhaps, a deeper message there: that it is time to change the way that we frame Aboriginality in our conversations, in our policies, and in our advocacy – to celebrate and honour the resilience and beauty of the oldest living culture in the world.
Statistics are important: acknowledging the difference in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, or highlighting the gap in employment rates, allows us to grasp some of the issues faced by the marginalised and displaced. But statistics are simply numbers: they do not provide us with a true understanding of the history of the First Peoples of Australia, and they do not give us room to celebrate achievements.
On July 6, the Prime Minister will host a bipartisan summit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in Sydney to discuss both the timing and the wording of the proposed referendum to amend the Australian Constitution, which has been slated for May 2017 – on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum. One of the key areas of reform being sought is the removal of Section 25 which allows the States to ban people from voting based on their race, and the amendment of Section 51(26) which gives Parliament power to pass laws that discriminate against people based on their race. Both of these sections reflect the stain of a racist past and should be changed to ensure that our relationship with the First Peoples is one framed by equality and justice.
There is hope for true and lasting reconciliation, and there is a strong commitment from both Parliament and the people of the Australia to listen to the voices of Aboriginal communities who are calling for substantive and positive change.
For more information on how you and your community can engage in activities during National Reconciliation Week, visit