2021 marks twenty years of Reconciliation Australia and almost three decades of Australia’s formal reconciliation process between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians.
Reconciliation Week is the time for non-Indigenous Australians to advance the reconciliation process, and to reflect on our progress so far. During Reconciliation week we observe National Sorry Day (26 May) – a national day of mourning and healing to remember the Stolen Generations – and Mabo Day (3 June), where we celebrate the landmark victory of Eddie Mabo in overturning the myth of ‘Terra Nullius’.
According to the 2020 Australian Reconciliation Barometer there is far greater awareness of the complexity and magnitude of First Nations’ cultures but there is a growing public sentiment that actions have been too slow to follow words. Thus, the theme of Reconciliation Week 2021 is More than a word: Reconciliation takes action.
Australian Red Cross hopes to encourage and support movement towards braver and more impactful action that brings us closer to true reconciliation as a country. We stand for an Australia where humanity can thrive. One with a rich identity built on trust, respect and understanding. Where we learn about our shared history, including its painful and confronting truths. Where we take pride in the histories, cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Where all people have equal opportunities to succeed and be proud of who they are.
But the challenges confronting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are extensive: racism, barriers to civic engagement and education, poverty, health risks, protection of culture and languages, incarceration rates – these are all humanitarian issues. Australian Red Cross has a responsibility to act on these.
Our vision for reconciliation is a unified nation built on dignity, safety and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Our current Reconciliation Action Plan, Stronger Together (2018–21) is our third, and is built on three pillars:
Over the past 15 years, Australian Red Cross has embarked on a process of organisational change to develop a national approach to walking alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. In 2006, we established our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Team, whose guidance and wisdom are such incredible assets to all that we do. We have committed to identifying and working with Community through a place-based approach, developed thorough rigorous analysis of available data and research. We’re also working toward ensuring cultural safety and inclusivity in our ranks by implementing compulsory Cultural Competency training for all staff.
During Reconciliation Week this year – for two hours – all of our staff will stop, put down their pens, phones and laptops, and participate in a dedicated period to contribute towards reconciliation. The time is their time to act. Some are communing on Country, some are attending cultural learning/training courses, some are engaging with the Aboriginal Artists/Storytellers or joining in activities in their local communities.
We are hugely indebted to Red Cross First Nations’ members, volunteers, clients and partners – we will walk alongside you on the journey toward a just, equitable and reconciled Australia.