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What can be Reconciled?

3 Jun 2021

Events such as Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC are important but adequate action is required immediately, action that includes letting our peoples run our lives on our terms, as per the Articles in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The theme for this year’s Reconciliation Week is “More than a word.  Reconciliation takes action”.

Reconciliation Week is marked to coincide with two significant moments in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advancement, specifically the 1967 Referendum and the Mabo High Court decision, both had symbolic and tangible flow-ons for First Nations peoples.  The week has gained popularity in Australia with more community groups and organisations holding activities around the country, it has certainly become a popular event for corporate Australia to be performative allies for a week while plundering our country the next.

 Reconciliation Australia (RA) is the organisation set up by the government to manage this annual event and has now been an operation for 20 years.  It has a national agenda and a well-resourced website to assist businesses, organisations and workplaces set action plans in place.  

 RA are asking people all across Australia to acknowledge the traditional owners of the Country on which we live, work, learn.

RA says:
This practice raises awareness of the histories and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. 

The 2021 campaign also calls for ‘Allies’ to become ‘Accomplices’, that seems to be awkward and conflated messaging considering it is our First Nations that are impacted by continuing colonial crimes against us.

It is an important statement that “Acknowledging Country shows you accept and understand that no matter where you are across this nation, you are on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands, and you acknowledge ongoing connection to Country” but this should be an awareness by the settler-colonial descendants every day of the year.  

Our struggles are ongoing and not 9-5, our trauma, dispossession, physical and cultural displacement don’t switch off when the Zoom meeting ends or when we take leave from work. Occupation of our country never ends. We know our allies don’t live our experiences and don’t need to be patronised either. Amplifying our First Nations campaigns and voices is a necessity. but we don’t need an echo chamber when we already talk to the brick walls of the power brokers that are holding the keys to our kingdoms. 

What is not said is that the continued decimation of our First Nations’ ability to connect with our country makes acknowledging the connections pointless.  If there isn’t immediate legislative reform to address the disparity for our First Nations then the indictment being acknowledged is that systemic racism will always be an intrinsic element of this nation.

RA suggested wording, it says “will help capture Acknowledgement of Country” but words are cheap. Even though the words and voices of allies are appreciated, solidarity and amplified messaging is required. 

Governments ignore the systemic racism which permeates throughout communities and governance structures.  The agendas continue to be set by the mainstream mindset and until WE set the agendas on our terms any feel good actions will be tokenistic.  

Government action must focus on adequately resourced and appropriately designed campaigns to stamp out racism, structural, systemic and institutional.  

The billion dollar Northern Territory Intervention continues as the revamped Stronger Futures and is now coming to the end of its 14th year.  The devastating effects such as ill health, inadequate housing, loss of autonomy, poverty have not abated.  The NTER was always cynically seen as a land grab and considering the plans to impose widespread fracking, expansion of MacArthur River mine, abuse of water resources etc, this cynicism was well founded.

Events such as Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC are important but adequate action is required immediately, action that includes letting our peoples run our lives on our terms, as per the Articles in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

Diplomatic and forthright Warlpiri cultural and political leader, the late Jakamarra Nelson was buried in Mparntwe last week and the legacy that resonated from condolence tributes and knowing his stance on domestic violence, cultural autonomy and campaigning against the NT Intervention that still impact Aboriginal communities in Central Australia, the NT and are echoed nationwide. His action would be for resolution, not reconciliation. The need for genuine action, not tokenism.  

Truth, justice, treaties, reparation now.

It has been argued that reconciliation is about balancing the books and basically you can’t do that when accounts are already uneven. 

There is NO MORE time for feel good exercises. 

We are angry. 

Why would governments give a damn when ReCONciliation works in their favour to keep the imbalance. Conciliation doesn’t cut it any more so even though our people are gentle, caring and intelligent and our culture has prospered for 60,000 plus years before colonisation, this has also worked in favour for the colonisers to continue the deceptions. 

The hashtag for Reconciliation Week is #MoreThanAWord #NRW2021 but referring back to Mr Jakamarra Nelson, #NoMoreWords #NeedMoreAction are more accurate.

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