May 2011

Let’s talk recognition

Two dates, May 27, 1967 and June 3, 1992 and the events they marked – recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the national census and the Mabo decision leading to Native Title – provide strong symbols for what Australia’s first peoples have achieved. But these dates also remind all Australians of the continuing need for recognition and reconciliation.

In the lead-up to National Reconciliation Week (May 27 to June 3), Reconciliation Australia Chief Executive Leah Armstrong is calling on the Australian public to join a national conversation about recognition.

Celebrated annually, Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to reflect on our shared histories, contributions and achievements.

The theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week is “Let’s Talk Recognition” and a range of activities will be held around the country during this time that focus on the value of recognition.

“Recognition comes in all sorts of ways, and means different things to different people, but everyone likes it when they get it,” says Leah.

“In what ways do you recognise the people around you, and in what ways do they recognise you?

“The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians will be exploring how we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution through their consultation and education work over the coming months,” says Leah.

“And it is important to start the conversation now about the value of recognition for us all and why it is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in particular.”

Reconciliation Australia recently released the findings of the second biennial Australian Reconciliation Barometer, which tracks the attitudes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and where they are positioned in relation to each other.

The Barometer revealed the majority of Australians (87%) believed the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people was important, and almost half (48%) believed it was improving. But the study also found people still do not trust each other – just nine per cent of the general population felt the trust between the two groups was good.

“Relationships and trust go hand in hand so it’s encouraging to see a willingness to improve the relationship – and these statistics show where we need to do the work,” explains Leah.

“Events like National Reconciliation Week can provide a focus for all Australians to reflect on reconciliation, learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures – and strengthen the relationships.”

Fast Facts
  • May 27 marks the anniversary of Australia’s most successful referendum and a defining event in our nation’s history. The 1967 Referendum saw over 90% of Australians vote to give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and recognise them in the national census.
  • On June 3, 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its landmark Mabo decision which legally recognised that Indigenous people had a special relationship to the land – that existed prior to colonisation and still exists today. This recognition paved the way for Indigenous land rights called Native Title.

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