National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week begins
The offices of the Independent Education Union of Australia NSW/ACT Branch are located on the traditional lands of the Eora, Ngunawal, Awabakal, and Bundjalung Nations, the sovereignty of which was never ceded. We pay respects to elders past present and emerging, and acknowledge the ongoing connection to land, waters, and culture. Colonisation and genocide are ongoing processes that continue to this day. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
Today is National Sorry Day, held on 26 May each year, and is an important reminder to acknowledge and recognise members of the Stolen Generation. National Reconciliation Week starts this Wednesday, 27 May.
National Sorry Day is important to Australia’s First Peoples because it is used to remember and recognise the Stolen Generations – most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been affected either directly or indirectly by those destructive and traumatising policies implemented since European colonisation. The Bringing Them Home Report (tabled in Federal Parliament on 26 May 1997) recommended that a National Sorry Day be celebrated each year, and the first Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1999. The Bringing Them Home Report was the result of an inquiry into the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their children from their families, and recommended both an apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reparations. In 2008, Australia delivered a national Apology under the then Rudd Labor government, an historic acknowledgment of the wrongs done to the Stolen Generations.
Sorry Day seeks to acknowledge primarily the moral failures of government sanctioned policies that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children taken away from their families and communities by governments, churches and welfare bodies to be brought up in institutions, fostered out or adopted by white families, creating what is now known as the Stolen Generations. These removals began from the early days of British colonisation in Australia. What Sorry Day addresses less specifically is the fundamental and original sin of British colonisation, that saw Australia’s First Peoples driven from their traditional lands with which they share deep and important cultural, spiritual and familial ties, to make way for the expansionist British empire to establish penitentiaries and begin the process of genocidal colonisation.
For non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, National Sorry Day prompts recognition of the physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural traumas experienced by First Peoples communities in the recent past and that continue to this day. It serves a reminder for constant vigilance, acknowledgment and respect for these communities, to attempt to rectify these mistakes and make sure they never happen again so that the process of cultural healing can continue.
National Reconciliation Week is celebrated every year from 27 May to 3 June every year. These dates commemorate significant milestones in the reconciliation journey – the 1967 Referendum acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the High Court Mabo decision, respectively. It is a time dedicated for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of use can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. Reconciliation Australia, the organising body responsible for - amongst other things - Reconciliation Week actions and initiatives, has announced the theme for National Reconciliation Week 2020 is In This Together.
The Chief Executive Officer for Reconciliation Australia, Karen Mundine, said that Australia’s ability to move forward as a nation relies on individuals, organisation and communities coming together in the spirit of reconciliation.
“The National Reconciliation Week 2020 theme reinforces that we all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures,” she said.
“When we come together to build mutual respect and understanding, we shape a better future for all Australians.”
This unity of purpose creates a shared sense of belonging and identity; and this identity must value and include the histories, cultures and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Unity is one of the five dimensions of reconciliation as defined by Reconciliation Australia.
National Reconciliation Week 2020 will be celebrated entirely online this year, for the first time, as another unfortunate result of the necessary social distancing health measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like other important dates we commemorate, the purpose remains the same even if the way we mark it is different,” said Ms Mundine.
The week is being launched on Wednesday 27 May by asking everyone to take to social media to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Country they are on.
Reconciliation Australia has suggested 20 ways we can be in this together in 2020: here’s a few to start:
- Be part of the National Acknowledgement of Country: To launch National Reconciliation Week, Reconciliation Australia is asking everyone to take to social media to acknowledge Country from 12pm Wednesday 27 May
- Watch the Panel Discussion about the 2000 bridge walks for reconciliation: Facebook live on Reconciliation Australia Facebook page and ABC Facebook pages. 12pm – 1pm Thursday 28 May
- Show us your bridge walk photo! Were you on a walk for reconciliation in the year 2000 anywhere in Australia? Add your photo and story about your reconciliation bridge walk to social media on the anniversary of the Sydney bridge walk Thursday 28 May #NRW2020 #InThisTogether2020
- Tune in to In Concert Together: Reconciliation Australia and ABC bring you Busby Marou, Alice Skye, and Jimblah in concert, hosted by Christine Anu on her National Evenings show on ABC Radio AND on Facebook live on Reconciliation Australia Facebook page and ABC Facebook pages. 9pm – 10pm Friday 29 May
- Hire a film for online watching from Reconciliation Film Club
Check out our 20 ways you can be #InThisTogether2020 suggestions and more info at nrw.reconciliation.org.au
HOW DO I FIND OUT THE TRADITIONAL OWNERS OF THE LAND I AM ON?
The AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia is a good guide to the Traditional Owners throughout Australia.
Read more about Acknowledging Country.