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First Peoples

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This report provides real life examples of reconciliation in action and a series of actions that must be taken to move our reconciliation focus from ‘safe’ to ‘brave’. It presents this shift as the next iteration of reconciliation, a pathway to ensuring that reconciliation is positively felt and identified by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. When it is felt in such a way, the relationship will grow stronger between First Peoples and other Australians, and inspire a sense of national unity on the path towards a more reconciled nation.

Key Findings/Recommendations:

  • Support for reconciliation has grown significantly over the past three decades. There is a far greater awareness of the complexity and magnitude of First Nations’ cultures and knowledges; and many more Australians now understand and acknowledge the brutal impact that British colonialism and the modern Australian state have had on First Nations families and communities.
  • Many of the stakeholders interviewed by Reconciliation Australia highlighted the role of local government in truth-telling and historical acceptance and there are numerous case studies of local government initiating name changes and other ways of honouring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories.
  • There is strong evidence of progress in Australia’s journey towards reconciliation. This is despite some well-founded disappointments—particularly over the response of the Australian Government to the Uluru Statement from the Heart. However, support for the Uluru Statement and the steps it outlines is also strong in the Australian public; with a 2019 Essential Poll finding that 70% of 1,097 respondents support constitutional recognition. The Voice to Parliament, a proposal that originated from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, was supported by 66%.
  • It is clear that while there have been some improvements in how First Nations peoples perceive the relationship between non-Indigenous Australians and themselves, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience of racism remains consistently and unacceptably high. Addressing the many justice issues that have been the subject of significant government inquiries, and acting on findings and recommendations, should be a priority in order to improve the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, government and government institutions.

For reconciliation to be effective, it must involve truth-telling, and actively address issues of inequality, systemic racism and instances where the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are ignored, denied or reduced. That is, there needs to be a move of effort from focussing on the preconditions for reconciliation, to focussing on more substantive change.

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