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:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are still not recognised in the Australian Constitution as Australia’s first peoples.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists believes that constitutional recognition would make a real and positive impact on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. It’s time for a national conversation about our past, our future and our collective journey towards reconciliation.
Show your support for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Australian Constitution and sign the pledge today.
Connection to land is an integral part of Aboriginal culture and society — the oldest living culture on the planet. But now Aboriginal people’s right to access their land is being threatened, with the WA government saying they can no longer afford to provide basic services to remote Aboriginal Communities because the federal government has cut funding.
Both of these governments have committed to Close the Gap on health and life expectancy. Forcing the closure of communities will widen the gap.
Ask them now to reverse this cruel and ill-considered policy.
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.
Most Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world — but this is not true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live 10–17 years less than other Australians. It continues largely as a result of decades of government inaction and a continuing lack of appropriate medical services.
Take action now and support Indigenous health equality.
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.
8. 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.