This year’s Reconciliation Week is of great significance to all of us as it will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision and the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum – major milestones in Australia's modern history and reflecting its ancient past.
Every year, between 27 May and 3 June, commemorations and celebrations take place across the country honouring our First Australians as well as acknowledging the often difficult relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. May 27 was the date of the 1967 Referendum when Indigenous Australians were finally guaranteed equal status in the census and 3 June commemorates the handing down of the 1992 Mabo land rights decision, which undid the principle of terra nullius and recognised the millennia-old custodianship of Australia by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Local government has always been an enthusiastic supporter of Reconciliation Week and is proud to host events from flag-raising ceremonies, local Indigenous cultural displays, Dreamtime story-telling in libraries and community morning teas. To boost the relationship and the spirit of reconciliation, the Commonwealth Government made available a $5,000 grant for individual councils to partner with local Indigenous groups to support events this week.
While it will be important to use this coming week to see how far reconciliation has come, it is also an opportunity to see where it has fallen short. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to struggle with poor health outcomes, educational outcomes well below those of non-Indigenous children and perpetually high-levels of unemployment and imprisonment.
While some indicators have shown improvement over the past decade, much more needs to be done. Many of these challenges can be linked to issues that Reconciliation Week can help address. So, this week, we not only remember the sacrifices and the progress made but in the spirit of reconciliation, we also recognise the challenges and the work still left to do, together. As the welcome to country says in my part of this great land, "let's not forget the past; but let's not dwell on the past, let's walk together in harmony."
I hope you and your communities have a positive Reconciliation Week.
Mayor David O’Loughlin