Visions of Reconciliation

Patrick Dodson

Activity: Reflect on visions of reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

The ‘Father of Reconciliation’

Pat Dodson (1996)

Patrick (‘Pat’) Dodson is a Yawuru man from Broome who, among many other roles, also served as inaugural Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, the work of which is now carried on by Reconciliation Australia.

According to Dodson:

Reconciliation can mean many different things. It might be as simple as a handshake with your Aboriginal neighbour, or, more broadly, better relations between indigenous communities and other Australians in all the places we share across this land: suburbs, towns and remote settlements; farms and stations; the rivers, lakes and seas; the bush, the mountains and the plains.

Above all, it must mean some form of agreement that deals with the legacies of our history, provides justice for all, and takes us forward as a nation. In the words of our council’s vision, we should walk together towards: ‘A united Australia which respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and provides justice and equity for all’.

Consider how this vision of reconciliation fits with your understanding of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).


Pearl Wymarra, Elder, Gudang clan

Watch a film clip of Pearl Wymarra, Elder from the Gudang clan, in the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/video/11833411690/

Based on your engagement with the film clip, reflect on the following question:

How do we start building bridges of understanding between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians?


The history and vision of Reconciliation Australia

Reconciliation Australiawww.reconciliation.org.au

In 1991, Australia made a formal commitment to reconciliation by establishing the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR). The role of CAR included encouraging meaningful communication, consultation, cooperation and action between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to provide justice and equity for all.

A united Australia which respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and provides justice and equity for all.

Eight key issues for reconciliation identified by the Council were:

  1. Understanding Country: The importance of land and sea in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies.
  2. Improving relationshipsBetter relationships between Aboriginal Australians and the wider community.
  3. Valuing cultures: Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures as a valued part of Australian heritage.
  4. Sharing histories: A sense for all Australians of a shared ownership of their history.
  5. Addressing disadvantage: A greater awareness of the causes of Aboriginal Australians’ disadvantage.
  6. Responding to custody levels: A greater community response to addressing the underlying causes.
  7. Agreeing on a document: Advancing the process of reconciliation by a document of reconciliation.
  8. Controlling destinies: Greater opportunities for Aboriginal Australians to control their destinies.

In 2001, Reconciliation Australia was established to continue the work of CAR, and today serves as the national expert body for reconciliation. Reconciliation Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that promotes and facilitates reconciliation by building relationships, respect and trust between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Reconciliation Australia’s vision is to wake to a reconciled, just, and equitable Australia, based on progress made in the following five dimensions:

  • historical acceptance
  • race relations
  • equality and equity
  • institutional integrity
  • unity

According to Reconciliation Australia, The five dimensions do not exist in isolation; they are inter-related and Australia can only achieve full reconciliation if we progress in all five dimensions, weaving them together to become a whole.

To foster reconciliation in the educational context, Reconciliation Australia established its Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning program. Narragunnawali is a word that comes from the language of the Ngunnawal people, Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and waterways on which Reconciliation Australia’s Canberra Office is located. It means alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace.

The Narragunnawali program is designed to support Australia’s 21,000+ early learning services, primary and secondary schools to foster higher levels of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions. Participating schools and early learning services will be assisted to find meaningful ways to increase respect, reduce prejudice, and strengthen relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

References

Dodson, P 1996, ‘Reconciliation at the crossroads’, Address to the National Press Club, April, viewed 18 August 2016, <http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/IndigLRes/car/1996/0104.html>.