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1 year ago
This week is National Reconciliation Week.
It is bookended by two anniversaries important in our nation’s history and progress.
The anniversary of the referendum on 27 May 1967, when Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the Constitution to allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and ensure they were counted in the population.
And the anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo decision delivered on 3 June 1992, which ruled that Aboriginal people held native title in the common law before the colonisation of Australia.
This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the presentation to the Government of the final report of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, and the public walks across bridges which attracted hundreds of thousands of people across the land.
National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity for all Australians to reflect on our troubled history and how far we’ve progressed down the path of resolving the differences  between settler communities and First Nations peoples.
There have been signs of been progress in the past two decades, but it has been an incremental change going forward with much more still needs to be achieved.
In light of recent events, it is fitting that the theme of the 2020 Reconciliation Week is, “In this Together”.
The pandemic has highlighted the resilience of First Nations communities.
So this week is also an opportunity to consider how to make those communities, and our relationships, more resilient as we work towards the recovery of our nation.
The fulfilment of the hopes embedded in the Uluru Statement from the Heart would go a long way towards Reconciliation.
Labor continues to support the basic principles of the Uluru statement – a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, and a Makarrata Commission to examine our history since occupation and supervise a process of agreement-making with Australian governments.
Not until we have reached a true national settlement will we all be able to echo confidently the words of the Gurindji leader Vincent Lingiari in 1975, when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically poured dirt into his hands:  “We are all mates now.”
We encourage all Australians to use this week to learn more about Reconciliation and the practical steps they can take to realise it in their own way.
Reconciliation is everyone’s business. We are in this together.