The theme this year is Grounded in Truth, Walk together in Courage.
National Reconciliation Week reminds us that there are a group of Australians who still do not enjoy the respect and confidence of the whole community and who are still the most marginalised amongst us.
Recognition does not just go one way. It is reciprocal. Recognition for Indigenous people completes a virtuous circle of recognition, whereby each of the three great generative forces of our country recognises the rightful place that the others hold in our shared past, present and future, and receives recognition of its own rightful place in return. In 2007, John Howard spoke of “recognising that while ever our Indigenous citizens are left out or marginalised or feel their identity is challenged we are all diminished. . . . that their long struggle for a fair place in the country is our struggle too”. Recognition is not about division or separatism. It is about completing the compact that has been left unfinished for too long, and bringing the country together so that our First Peoples can become more equal sharers in the Australian achievement. “
Professor Davis reminds us that “thinking ethically about reform for the First Nations requires thinking about the truth of our history, and this can be emotionally and psychologically hard. It can be easier to close our ears. But the Uluru Statement issues this moral challenge to all Australians: hear our voices, and pause to listen and understand.” (with thanks to CRA Justice Committee)
National Reconciliation Week urges us to engage in challenging conversations, to unlearn and relearn our history and to positively contribute to the unifying future. This year’s theme calls for truth and courage and requires us to work together and to envisage a better future for our first people.
We invite you to take a moment to re-read the Uluru Statement and to reflect on this year’s theme: Grounded in Truth, Walk together in Courage.
ULURU STATEMENT FROM THE HEART
We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs.
This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history.
In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.