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A Reconciliation Day in ACT?

Michael Reid 7 August 2016 21

Chris Bourke

Chris Bourke believes we should have a new or rebadged public holiday in the territory: Reconciliation Day.

And the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs minister is keen to hear what Canberrans have to say on the matter.

“I want to hear what people have got to say,” says Bourke, the first Indigenous Australian elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly. “I want to know if they think it’s a good idea, I want to know if they like the timing.

“I’m pretty keen on having it on that first Monday after the 27th of May because that lines up with the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, when Australians voted so overwhelmingly to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Next year is also the 25th anniversary of the Mabo decision, which struck down the myth of terra nullius, and paved the way for native title to deliver such good outcomes for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, so I think there’s quite a bit of synergy about having at that particular time.

“Whether you take the Queen’s Birthday holiday and move it back a week, or you lift the Family and Community Day out of September and move it into that first Monday after the 27th – that is something that I’d like to hear what people think about it.

“People might have a view that there’s already not enough holidays at the back half of the year, so maybe we should shift that Queen’s Birthday holiday.”

Bourke says one option might be to have a co-badged commemoration.

“Other people might say why don’t you follow the South Australian example and give the holiday a double header name, where they actually have Queens’s birthday and Volunteers Day.

“We could have Queen’s Birthday and Reconciliation Day, so there’s a range of options there.

“I just want to hear what people have to say about any of those ideas, or whether they think this is a good idea or not.”

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21 Responses to A Reconciliation Day in ACT?
runtheredlight runtheredlight 10:48 am 11 Jul 16

I think we should consider a Reconciliation Day if only because the comments on this article alone demonstrate the need for society to better appreciate and understand Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, and heritage. I’m troubled that so many seem so uncomfortable with the idea.

Those who believe that Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people are somehow “ahead” of non-indigenous people in Australia are blithely ignoring the statistics on incarceration, education, employment, life expectancy, and basically every other measure of “success” in contemporary society.

Those who think that invasion, settlement, and colonisation are somehow “ancient history” fail to appreciate the long-term implications of these actions. The systematic oppression of Indigenous peoples was built upon such foundations, and it continues today. The moves to elevate Indigenous peoples in public life are undertaken BECAUSE we acknowledge that they have been historically disadvantaged in a way that makes “normal” participation almost impossible without assistance.

I would refer those of you saying “They have enough already! All they do is take more than their share and complain! We give them so much!” to the statistics, again. How many Indigenous Australians live in this country? What is their net “share”? Of the taxes you pay, what percentage is dedicated or isolated solely for the use of Indigenous Australians, and might I add, to the detriment of non-indigenous? You don’t even know. Go and read the ANU report on Indigenous employment in the APS and the responses from Indigenous employees – it was reported in the Canberra Times in June of this year. Come back and tell me “They have enough”. Or perhaps you’ll come back and tell me “They’re not trying hard enough”?

I challenge anyone to show me a part of society where Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples are well- or over-represented in a positive way, outside of the institutions and bodies created specifically for their interests. Do you really think this puts them waaaaaaay ahead of non-indigenous society?

I’d prefer to hear from Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples as to whether they would like a Reconciliation Day or other day of commemoration, and what, and why. We cannot and should not stop acknowledging Indigenous Australians until we truly have equality. Those of you who believe it is already present are burying their heads in the sand.

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