23 May 2024

'Not just a word': Reconciliation events take shape for Monday's public holiday

| James Coleman
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Reconciliation Day events will be held at Commonwealth Park. Photo: ACT Government.

Commonwealth Park is where it’s at this Monday for the 7th Reconciliation Day public holiday.

There’s a Canberra-wide invitation to attend an “inclusive community event” from 10 am to 3 pm at Stage 88 for a variety of cultural activities and live entertainment.

A smoking ceremony and ‘Welcome to Country’ will kick things off, followed by a full day of entertainment from singers, dancers and musicians, and a variety of food stalls.

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There’ll also be basket weaving and boomerang painting workshops for the adults, ochre face painting, Aboriginal symbol tracing, and puzzles and bush tucker games for the kids.

Retired ANU historian Professor Peter Read, author Samantha Faulkner and Associate Professor Anthony Hopkins will lead panel discussions on “listening” and “where to from now”.

ACT Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Rachel Stephen-Smith encouraged Canberrans of all backgrounds to get down to the park and “learn more about the oldest living cultures on Earth”.

Aboriginal dancers

Duncan Smith and his ‘Wiradjuri Echoes’ are part of the Reconciliation Day event. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

“We know Canberrans are leading the nation when it comes to embracing reconciliation and showing support for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community,” she said.

“The ACT is the first and only Australian jurisdiction to have a public holiday for Reconciliation Day, and we once again stood out during last year’s Voice to Parliament Referendum as the only jurisdiction to record a majority ‘yes’ vote.

“This year’s Reconciliation Day event offers another opportunity for us all to come together and reflect on the next stages of our reconciliation journey.”

two women outside tent

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and Ngunnawal elder Aunty Violet Sheridan. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

The ACT replaced ‘Family and Community Day’, formerly held in late September as a nod to union picnic days, with Reconciliation Day in 2017, a move championed by Ms Stephen-Smith.

At the time, she said the government would move to celebrate the “important themes” of the labour movement on Labor Day while marking a “defining event” in Australian history when more than 90 per cent of the country voted to recognise Indigenous Australians in the census.

Reconciliation Day is held on the first Monday on or after the 1967 Referendum anniversary date of 27 May each year and forms part of National Reconciliation Week.

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ACT Reconciliation Council co-chair Selina Walker says the day’s events are designed to “foster positive and respectful conversations towards learning and understanding”.

“Reconciliation is not just a word – it is an action and a human rights movement.”

Co-chair Richard Baker says this year, with its theme of ‘Now More Than Ever’, is “an important opportunity to bring the ACT community together to celebrate the extraordinary richness of the cultures of First Nation people in Australia”.

The entertainment program will be headlined by First Nations singer and reality TV star Isaac Compton and feature performances from Wallabindi, singer-songwriter and winner of MusicACT’s Independent Debut in 2023, and Indigenous rock, folk, pop band Djaarmby Band.

The event starts at 10 am with a smoking ceremony. Photo: Events ACT.

A Sunday timetable and light-rail frequency will be in place for the public holiday.

Free public transport for people attending the event is available on all Transport Canberra regular bus and light rail services, provided “passengers simply tell the bus driver or Customer Service Officer they’re attending the event if asked”, according to a government spokesperson.

Additional free shuttle buses will run on a continuous loop from 9 am until 4 pm between the City Interchange platform 3 and the visitors centre at Regatta Point.

Visit the ACT Government website for more information.

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