National Reconciliation Week 2021
“More than a word. Reconciliation takes action” is the message of National Reconciliation Week 2021. Leanne Elliott explores what this week means for many Australians.
It started as a week of prayer for reconciliation. The same year people around the world celebrated 1993 as the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In 2021, National Reconciliation Week has become part of Australia’s national, cultural and social fabric.
NRW takes place annually, between 27 May and 3 June. It marks a time for reflection, recognition and understanding between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader community. It also marks a time to build relationships and to look to the future. But part of looking to the future involves understanding the past.
The 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia Report (SRAS) lists five key dimensions of reconciliation: historical acceptance, race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity and unity. These dimensions involve various calls to action, including working towards overcoming racism, renewing focus on Closing the Gap, expanding opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, constitutional change, and improving our understanding of the past through education and understanding.
“Brave is when we listen, challenge, and learn about ourselves and others. Brave is saying that you’re ready to delve into the very things that hold you together; your bias, beliefs and values. Brave is when you refuse to accept inertia” – Shelley Reys, Arrilla Indigenous Consulting, SRAS Report.
The report also provides an insight into the current climate in Australia. Some findings include, a large portion of Australians believe racism in Australia “remains unacceptably high”, although the number of people in the community wanting change has increased.
It also found over 70% of the broader community surveyed believing national unity is achievable. Likewise, more than 70% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed “support the concept of unity”.
So far, the reconciliation process has been slow, and there is a growing sentiment the Australian government is “lagging behind public opinion and dragging the chain”. So, the theme for this year, “More than a word. Reconciliation takes action”, is spot-on.
Despite this, the fact that awareness and understanding are influencing sentiment, discourse, and action in the wider Australian community is perhaps one of the biggest achievements of the reconciliation process so far.
This is why events like National Reconciliation Week are so important, they bring communities together with the view of working towards a more unified future.
Feature Image by Charly Stenhouse, Newcastle Artist.