National Sorry Day will be observed today, May 26, and National Reconciliation Week from Friday May 27 to Friday June 3.
Sorry Day commemorates the Stolen Generations – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were forcibly removed from their families and communities.
National Reconciliation Week falls on the same dates each year to commemorate the 1967 referendum that amended the constitution to include First Nation Peoples in the census and allowed the Commonwealth to create laws for them, and the 1992 High Court Mabo decision, that recognised First Nation Peoples as the Traditional Owners of this land.
This is one reason why an Acknowledgement of Country is so important. I acknowledge, and encourage us all to acknowledge, the Traditional Custodians of the lands that we work across at SSI and Access, and pay our respects to past, present and future Elders of this nation. At SSI and Access, we recognise the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
For non-First Nation Peoples, National Reconciliation Week provides opportunities for listening, learning, and reflecting. Underpinning this is recognising the past and continued intergenerational trauma that colonisation has caused First Nation Peoples, so that healing can be fostered.
Uncle Charles (Chicka) Madden, a respected Elder from Gadigal country who holds several titles including Director of the Aboriginal Medical Service, discusses the importance of acknowledging the past wrongdoings in SSI Group’s Reconciliation Action Plan.
“It’s important to talk about and acknowledge the poor treatment of Aboriginal People in the past, and only once it is acknowledged and spoken about can we move on to Reconciliation.
“We need to communicate the truth of what happened in the past, in order to move forward in the future.”
This year, the theme for National Reconciliation Week is “Be Brave. Make Change”. Reconciliation Australia states on its website that during this time all Australians are “challenged to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can make change for the benefit of all Australians”.
Reconciliation is not a passive term – it requires two parties to openly communicate, so that a deep sense of understanding can be established and relationships can grow and thrive.
We all play a role in this process. We can all take time to expand our own learning. We can all help to create safe and supportive spaces for First Nation Peoples, Educators and Elders to share their stories and histories, in a spirit of compassion.
I encourage you to see this week as an opportunity to be an active supporter of Reconciliation, by attending an event (click here to see events that have been registered with Reconciliation Australia; you may know of others in your local communities).
Be brave, make change – now is the time to come together to connect and grow as an Australian community.
SSI Group CEO