The Australian Government is committed to the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and other Australians and recognises the importance of reconciliation to Australia's future.
While reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and the wider community means different things to different people, the common thread is that all Australians are entitled to equal life chances. The Australian Government believes that reconciliation will not become a reality until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage has been eliminated.
Reconciliation is a long-term process of social and economic realignment that is about improving relations between Indigenous people and the wider Australian community, recognising their shared history and addressing the disadvantage that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still suffer as a result of that history.
The Australian approach
Reconciliation involves symbolic recognition of the honoured place of the first Australians and the provision of practical and effective measures that address the legacy of profound economic and social disadvantage experienced by many Indigenous Australians, particularly in the areas of housing, health, education and employment.
The Australian Government accepts a leading role in reconciliation through its pursuit of practical and symbolic measures that have a positive effect on the everyday lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Australian Government spending on Indigenous programmes has increased by 43 per cent in real terms since 1996 and is at record levels.
History of Australian reconciliation
There have been several milestones on the path to reconciliation. In 1967, a significant step was taken when an overwhelming majority of Australians voted to amend the Australian Constitution. This allowed the Commonwealth Government to legislate on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues.
In 1991, the Australian Government established the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation to progress a formal reconciliation process. The council reached out to several sectors including the education, health, mining and business sectors, to Australian governments and the broader community seeking a nation-wide commitment to reconciliation.
The council's activities spawned a thriving movement for reconciliation and galvanised political commitment to reducing disadvantage.
The council concluded its 10 year term in December 2000 and reported to all Australians on the progress made towards reconciliation and suggested ways in which the reconciliation process could continue.
At the cessation of the council, the Australian Government reaffirmed its commitment to reconciliation through the provision of seed funding and tax deductibility status to Reconciliation Australia - an organisation established to provide a continuing national focus for reconciliation.
Reconciliation Australia is leading the way providing a continuing national focus for reconciliation. It is an independent, non-government and not-for profit foundation funded through corporate and government partnerships and individual tax deductible donations.
Through strategic partnerships Reconciliation Australia runs several projects in the areas of
- Indigenous community governance
- Indigenous rights
- good Indigenous governance
- improving access to banking and financial services
- Indigenous family violence
- Indigenous employment strategies
- education and young Australians
National Reconciliation Week is celebrated from 27 May to 3 June and offers people across Australia the opportunity to focus on reconciliation, to hear about the culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Indigenous people, and to explore new and better ways of meeting challenges in our communities.
In 2001, the Australian Government funded the construction of Reconciliation Place in the heart of the national capital to mark the importance of reconciliation in the nation's life and help tell the story of our shared histories.
The chief design feature of Reconciliation Place is a series of public artworks displaying images and text that express reconciliation themes including:
- A welcome to Ngunnawal country - an acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the land on which Reconciliation Place is being built
- The 1967 referendum that amended the Australian constitution to allow the Commonwealth Government to legislate on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues
- The recognition of native title rights which found that native title to land was part of Australia's common law
- The contribution Indigenous people have made, and continue to make, to Australia in sport and in the defence of our nation
- Indigenous leadership, depicting two great leaders -Neville Bonner and Vincent Lingiari and
- T he past practice of separating Indigenous children from their families.
Reconciliation Place will evolve over time with the addition of new artworks.
Into the Future
While there is much progress still to be made in advancing reconciliation within the Australian community, there is clear evidence that improvements are continuing to occur in areas such as Indigenous health, education, housing, employment and land ownership.
The Australian Government is committed to ensuring these positive trends in addressing Indigenous disadvantage are built upon, and the momentum for improvement is increased through the provision of adequate resources.
Prime Minister's Website – www.pm.gov.au
Reconciliation Australia – www.reconciliation.org.au
Further information about other aspects of contemporary Australia