Indigenous leaders say it’s time for action on reconciliation
20 January 2021 at 3:51 pm
A new report says Australians need to be brave and have difficult conversations around racism
Australians need to move beyond simply acknowledging the impacts of colonialism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and instead take concrete action to move the reconciliation movement forward, Indigenous leaders say.
The 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia report explores the current status of reconciliation and outlines the steps needed to progress the reconciliation process.
Its release this week comes five years on from the first State of Reconciliation report, which found that while most Australians support reconciliation, trust towards Indigenous Australians was low and racial abuse was high.
This year’s report found that there was now almost universal belief that the relationship between First Nations people and other Australians was important.
But Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine told Pro Bono News that the current state of reconciliation was a “mixed bag”.
She said there was still much more that needed to be done.
“Over the last couple of years in particular, we’ve got more Australians than ever that are engaged in reconciliation – over 90 per cent of Australians believe the relationship between us is important,” Mundine said.
“But we still see highly unacceptable rates of experiences of racism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we still have unacceptably high rates of incarceration, kids in out-of-home care and rates of family violence.”
The report’s theme is “moving from safe to brave”, noting that “bravery in the face of racism will be our change agent”.
The report said now was the time to step up beyond acknowledgment and have uncomfortable conversations around racism.
“We need to extend those conversations to those within our sphere of influence, both professionally and personally,” the report said.
“We might feel a degree of safety when discussing our organisation’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), for instance, but are we prepared to step up our leadership roles, tackle racism head on and drive a reconciled nation at the risk of losing the support of constituents, or shareholders, or colleagues along the way?”
Mundine said all Australians had a role to play in the reconciliation process.
She said the movement was not at “tipping point” and that taking action was the necessary next step.
“This can [involve] addressing and thinking about the way you think about these issues, [having] those hard conversations perhaps with friends and family, and being more active around explaining issues or getting others to engage in it,” she said.
“All of these things are steps that people can take, and they require a bit of bravery.”
The report said the refusal of the Australian government to accept the Indigenous Voice to Parliament provisions of the Uluru Statement was a step back in progress.
But it said it was positive that the Closing the Gap targets had been expanded and extended in a formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Looking ahead, Mundine said progress on reconciliation would be measured through the level of life experience equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“So if we’re able to see a reduction in those unacceptably high levels of children in out-of-home care, incarceration rates and family violence, I think that’s a win,” she said.
“[And if] Aboriginal people are self-determining [and] have a greater say in the outcomes in their lives and their communities. I think that’s where we’ll start to see change.”