National Reconciliation Week - Let's take the next steps

12 May 2017

We're hosting a range of events that are open to our community and the general public to mark National Reconciliation Week from 27 May to 3 June. 

As National Reconciliation Week approaches, we’ll be reflecting on our nation’s journey towards a strengthened relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal people. This year marks two significant milestones along this path: 50 years since the 1967 Referendum and 25 years since the Mabo decision. Our theme for 2017 will be, ‘Let’s Take The Next Steps’.

We’ll be recognising National Reconciliation Week in 2017 by celebrating our nation’s history and looking to the future with a week-long program of events across our campuses.

These events will include an interactive public artwork, a flag-raising ceremony, workshops, forums, and installations – and everyone’s welcome.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Shane Houston said 2017 marked an important milestone for reconciliation.

“By reflecting on our history, it gives us an opportunity to think about the future and to start taking the next steps forward,” Professor Houston said.

“This year we celebrate the anniversaries of two important steps that others have taken before us – the 1967 Referendum and the Mabo decision.”

In 1967, an amendment to the Australian Constitution was overwhelmingly endorsed, winning 93 percent of votes cast. These amendments had the immediate effect of including Aboriginal people as part of the Australian population, and  empowered the national government to make laws in respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that could assist in addressing inequalities.

On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia decided that terra nullius should not have been applied to Australia. This decision – known as the Mabo decision – recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to the land – rights that existed before the British arrived and can still exist today.

The Mabo decision was a turning point for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights, because it acknowledged their unique connection with the land. It also led to the Australian Parliament passing the Native Title Act in 1993.

Professor Houston said he hoped everyone would take some time to think about these important steps in our march to becoming a stronger nation, and welcomed everyone to get involved. “We have a wide range of events and activities planned for students and the community, and I encourage everyone to come and participate.”

What’s on during National Reconciliation Week

On Monday 29 May from 10am to 4pm, the University Lawns will host the Hands of Reconciliation interactive artwork. You can show your support for reconciliation in Australia by writing a personal note about how you want to take the next steps, and plant your message on what is Australia’s largest public artwork.

You can also watch as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are raised above the Quadrangle Clocktower, accompanied by a smoking ceremony and presentation by keynote speakers. The event will also feature the unveiling of the Hands of Reconciliation.

On Tuesday 30 May, the Poche Indigenous Health Network hosts the Key Thinkers Forum with Professor Tom Calma AO to discuss the 1967 Referendum and the implications for health then, now and in the future. Be sure to register for this event to avoid missing out.

Sydney Ideas hosts Jane Gleeson-White on The Swan Book by Alexis Wright (30 May), while Learning from Country (15 May – 31 July) is an exhibition of original artwork and materials showcasing the journey behind a series of multi-award-winning books produced by writer Nadia Wheatley and artist Ken Searle.

The final public event of the week will be a discussion about Arts and Aboriginal Australia co-presented by Sydney Ideas and the Macleay Museum. It will question how exhibitions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander collections can engage all visitors meaningfully as we embark on the building of the new Chau Chak Wing Museum.

During the week, we are expecting up to 300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students to take part in the Experience Uni program run by Widening Participation and Outreach. Students will participate in hands-on activities with faculties from across the University, including getting involved with the Hands of Reconciliation, and using the ASTAR Career Finder App to identify their interests and academic strengths.

Find out more details about all of our National Reconciliation Week events and discover how you can join in to take the next steps.

By reflecting on our history, it gives us an opportunity to think about the future and to start taking the next steps forward.
Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services)

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