Don’t Keep History A Mystery

Don’t Keep History A Mystery

The theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week (27 May- 3 June) is “Don’t Keep History A Mystery: Learn. Share. Grow.”

This year, National Reconciliation Week (NRW) challenges Australians to ask themselves what they don’t know about the country’s history. By learning and then sharing that knowledge, there is the hope that this will assist the nation to grow together.

This NRW is also a week of firsts, the ACT is the first Australian state or territory to observe the inaugural Reconciliation Day with a public holiday on 28 May. Along with this Tasmania will, for the first time, formally recognise National Reconciliation Week.

NRW had its beginnings in 1993 when the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation was introduced and then in 1996, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation launched the first national reconciliation week. The week commemorates two key events. The first is the 1967 referendum, where Australians voted to acknowledge First Peoples as citizens in the Australian Constitution. The second, was the High Court Mabo land decision that recognises First Peoples as the traditional owners of the land.

Learning and Growing Together

The NRW website has provided a number of resources learn more about our shared history and how individuals, businesses and schools can take part in the week (You can find out more here). The Uniting Church SA Synod has also put together Reconciliation Sunday Worship Resources for congregations.

The week also highlights that there is still a long way to go and that true reconciliation is not one day or one week, it is ongoing. To put this into perspective, Australia is still the only Commonwealth country that has not entered into a treaty with the nation’s Indigenous peoples. In 2017 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community produced the Uluru Statement from the Heart that presented a united call for sovereignty and a ‘Voice to Parliament’ indigenous advisory body. The Federal Government rejected the proposal as the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, stated that the advisory body would become “a third chamber of Parliament.”

The President of the Uniting Church, Stuart McMillan, expressed his disappointment of the Federal Governments response to the Uluru Statement that Mr McMillan believed denied First Peoples a voice.

“While we are still challenged to honour our Covenant relationship with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, the Uniting Church has shown that progress on representation is possible, if you keep working at it,”said Mr McMillan.

This NRW Mr McMillan has urged congregations to reach out to local First Peoples, listen to their stories and learn more about the historical truths of this country.

“Acknowledgement of country is a widely accepted practice in Australian public life, so I’m shocked at the number of people who are unaware or sometimes even deny basic facts about First Peoples,” said Mr McMillan.

Self-determination and Sovereignty

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has continued to stand alongside our First People brothers and sisters. In 1994 UCA entered into a Covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). The Covenant recognises the Church’s prior complicity to the injustices of First Peoples and is a pledge to journey together in reconciliation and renewal.

UAICC  President, Rev. Garry Dronfield, said there is still opportunity for more congregations to actively engage in Convenanting.

“The invitation of Pastor Bill Hollingsworth from the Covenant Agreement in 1994 still stands today – because it is pleasing to God to love one another, and it is our commitment to do so, we invite you on behalf of Congress members to develop a new relationship,” said Rev. Dronfield.

The Uniting Church in Australia Assembly will continue the conversation of Indigenous sovereignty when the Assembly meets in July 2018. At this meeting they will look at a number of proposals, with one that is focussed on the Recognition of Sovereignty. The proposal looks “…to affirm that the First Peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal and Islander Peoples, are sovereign peoples in this land.” Read the full proposal here.

NRW Events

Find Reconciliation Events near you click here.

Event highlights in NSW and the ACT:

The MAAS Mabo Day Address 2018, Power House Museum, NSW.

Servant or Slave Film screening, Bondi Pavilion, NSW.

Reconciliation Week BBQ, Prince Alfred Park, NSW.

Journeys – Reconciliation Week Exhibition,   Belconnen Community Gallery, ACT.

Indigenous experiences of democracy tour, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, ACT.

The Barunga Statement event/film screening, Australian Parliament House, ACT.


Further Reading

Share Our Pride – Awareness raising resource.

ABC Right Wrongs


Melissa Stewart


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