Reconciliation is not just a week

Created By: Zoe Betar Zoe Betar

How does racial abuse make someone like Adam Goodes feel? Young Indigenous Australian Zoe Betar shares her thoughts and gives some tips on how we can build more positive relationships between Indigenous peoples and other Australians this Reconciliation Week.

Aboriginal Australian guy
Reconciliation literally means ‘re-establishing friendly relations’ or ‘healing old wounds’.

Have you heard of Reconciliation Week? It’s a campaign held every year in Australia that works to build stronger ties between Indigenous Australia and other communities through media and community events.

I am a 24-year-old Bundjalung woman from northern New South Wales. There are a lot of reasons why reconciliation is important, but while I don’t speak for every Indigenous Australian,  I believe the key to it is understanding who Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are and where they come from.  

Reconcile what? 

Reconciliation literally means ‘re-establishing friendly relations’ or ‘healing old wounds’. In practical terms, it’s about acknowledging our cultural history and the devastating and complex relationship Indigenous Australians have had with colonial Australia, but ultimately learning from that past as a way of reshaping the present and making a better future for all Australians. I think reconciliation should not just be celebrated for one week every year - it should happen every day of every year!

When Adam Goodes copped abuse at the AFL in 2013, it wasn’t a great example of friendly relations, but he responded positively - he walked away, and then later used the incident as an opportunity to educate the community about why racial insults were damaging to our community’s relationship with other Australians. In 2010 there was a similar situation when Rugby player Timana Tahu overheard racist slurs made towards a fellow player who was Indigenous. Tahu  made an admirable statement by walking out of the game. 

Words can hurt us 

Racist insults like the two above can be very  upsetting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and can have a negative impact on how welcome they feel in their own community (or on the field). 

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, racial abuse follows a colonial history of physical violence and dispossession. The words don’t insult just one person – they affect an entire culture. Reconciliation works to prevent that from happening and it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep working on the relationship between Indigenous Australians and other Australians. 

Reconciliation starts with a question, rather than an assumption about the past. With most racism stemming from a lack of awareness or understanding about another culture and its people, education is significant in the path to creating an Australia which is inclusive and respectful of its Indigenous peoples.

What can I do? 

The good news is there are lots of things - big and small - that you can do to contribute to reconciliation: 

1. Ask questions. If you don’t know about something, ask someone! Indigenous Australians are more than happy to share their history.

2. Check out what’s online: Reconciliation Australia, NAIDOC and ANTaR are examples of Indigenous organisations that have loads of info about reconciliation and Indigenous people.

3. Get involved: your school, university and most workplaces have events, staff or other ways for you to get involved in Reconciliation Week events. Participating in events is one of the best ways you can learn about the culture and history of Indigenous Australians.  

So, let’s take these ideas into the rest of this week and move forward as a nation, as a community and as individuals. And like I said – reconciliation isn’t just one week in a year – building positive, respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians is a part of everyone’s life, every day of the year. 

Last reviewed: 04 November, 2016
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