By Justin McCaul, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Program Manager
This week is National Reconciliation Week. Activities and events will be held nationwide to celebrate the culture, history and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Reconciliation is about unity and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians. It’s also about respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and valuing justice and equity for all Australians.
As an organisation, Oxfam supports National Reconciliation Week because we choose to recognise the unique place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as Australia’s first peoples. We choose to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations to make a difference to the unacceptable conditions that impact their daily lives — like low levels of education, high levels of unemployment and poor health.
Despite more than 200 years of institutionalised dispossession, racism and discrimination towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — National Reconciliation Week is a time to make amends for the past — and celebrate the heritage, culture and contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make to Australia’s present and future.
Here are 8 things you can do to celebrate National Reconciliation Week:
In 2004, Michael Long — a recognisable Aboriginal figure in AFL football — walked 600km from his home in Melbourne to the heart of Canberra. His walk put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues back on the national agenda. After an outpouring of public support, Michael met then Prime Minister, John Howard, at the conclusion of his journey.
Now, The Long Walk continues to raise awareness to improve and support opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Long Walk “Together 2015” community event and well being concert will be held on Saturday 30 May from 12 noon at Federation Square, Melbourne.
Show your support and get involved with The Long Walk.
National Reconciliation Week is about sharing culture, connecting with community and celebrating Indigenous success at every opportunity. Participating or holding an event is a great way to get involved. In fact, events are held right around the country — in schools, offices, parks and community centres.
In the past 10 years we have seen a 88% increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ending up in prison, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people.
We need to invest in early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies. These are smarter solutions that increase safety, cut reoffending and imprisonment rates, and build stronger and safer communities.
Join the conversation and help change the record.
Through the Close the Gap campaign you’ve influenced governments around Australia to commit to Indigenous health equality. But this is just the beginning. Change will take a generation. We need sustained action from Federal and State Governments. This is where we need your help to make a commitment a reality.
5. Use the power of social media
The theme for National Reconciliation Week (NRW) 2015 is ‘It’s time to change it up.’ What will you do to change it up for 2015? Share your NRW events and experiences on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #NRW2015 and share this post to inspire others to act.