‘‘Grounded in Truth: Walk Together with Courage.’’
This is the theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week (Monday, May 27, to Monday, June 3).
Grounded in truth.
So what does this mean?
The Uluru Statement from the Heart talks about this truth.
‘‘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 Creations, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60000 years ago.’’
This is truth — a truth that is continually being corroborated by scientific research.
Artefacts in Kakadu national park have been dated between 65000 and 80000 years old, extending likely occupation of area by thousands of years.
The findings, on about 11000 artefacts from Kakadu National Park and reported in 2017, prove indigenous people have been in Australia for far longer than the much-contested estimates of between 47000 and 60000 years, the researchers said.
Some of the artefacts were potentially as old as 80000 years.
This is a truth — a truth known by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and carried down in stories since the Dreaming.
This is a truth that the concept of Terra Nullius — or ‘‘Nobody’s land’’ — rode roughshod over.
But a truth that is now vindicated.
There are other truths.
The truth — so poignantly and shockingly described in the Bringing Them Home Report — that thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children generations, were forcibly taken from their families and communities as a result of government policies designed to hasten the extinction of their race.
The report estimated that a minimum of one in 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period up to 1970.
This is a truth we can no longer ignore.
It is vividly and painfully described in the pages of the report.
A truth that lives on daily in the lives of those who were taken, their families and communities and in the heartbreaking stories of those who never found their way home, whose place in their families and communities lived on only in memories and ongoing pain and sadness.
It is a truth that continues to reverberate in these communities today.
In the introductory words of the report ‘‘.... the past is very much with us today, in the continuing devastation of the lives of Indigenous Australians. The devastation cannot be addressed unless the whole community listens with an open heart and mind to the stories of what has happened in the past and, having listened and understood, commits itself to reconciliation’’.
So what has happened since 2008 when the report was tabled in Parliament?
It is a truth that the majority of recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report have never been adopted.
It is also a truth that the Australian Government rejected the model for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report.
Truth-telling about our history is a core aspiration of the Uluru statement.
It is not a new idea — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been calling for this since the first Day of Mourning back in 1938.
How long and how often does this call have to be made?
It is a truth that we have not listened, not heard.
So now is our opportunity.
With the words ‘‘We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future’’, we have been offered a way forward.
So let’s all walk together with courage — courage to listen to the truths from the past, courage to hear and understand and courage to make a change.
Let us take up this invitation and carve out a new truth for our country.
So what can you do?
Get together with friends and explore what ‘‘Grounded in Truth: Walk together with Courage’’ means for you.
Read the Bringing Them Home report
Read Bringing Them Home 20 Years On.
Join us as we explore locally how we can Walk Together with Courage and have these important conversations at The Connection on Wednesday from noon to 1.30pm.