Let’s talk constitutional recognition in Reconciliation Week
31 May 2012

Each year from 27 May to 3 June, National Reconciliation Week celebrates and builds on the respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Leading employers are celebrating the week in a variety of ways, including throwing their support behind the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This year’s theme, Let’s Talk Recognition, will focus on how Australians can better recognise each other and recognise the contributions, cultures and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Nareen Young, Diversity Council Australia’s CEO, said many DCA members are taking the opportunity to celebrate the week through activities like launching Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) or holding special events, but the bigger issue of constitutional reform is an area of growing focus:

“One important way organisations can show their support is to commit to recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s Constitution,” said Nareen. “Progressive organisations understand that support for constitutional reform is a key aspect of reconciliation.”    

Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians could play an important role in closing economic opportunity gaps between Indigenous and other Australians, said Business Council of Australia President Tony Shepherd in its Cultural Recognition Promotes Economic Equality news release:

“Recognition of heritage and culture is part of building the kind of relationships that allow us to work together to improve outcomes for Indigenous colleagues and the nation as a whole. … Like the national apology in 2008, constitutional recognition of Australia’s first peoples should contribute to better outcomes and a more confident Australia,” said Tony.

Telstra’s CEO, David Thodey, said that Telstra supports discussion about constitutional reform:

“Telstra is supporting reconciliation through “You Me Unity”, the national conversation about updating our constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture for the benefit of all Australians. I encourage you, your families and friends to visit www.youmeunity.org.au to make it your business to get involved and show your support for reconciliation,” said David in his introduction to Telstra’s RAP 2011-14.  

How to participate in Reconciliation Week

During National Reconciliation Week, you can participate in various activities and events that focus on the value of recognition. Reconciliation Australia has the following suggestions:

  • To find out how you can support constitutional change, visit www.youmeunity.org.au.
  • Think about someone important in your life, and why that person is important to you. If relevant, maybe write the reasons down and tell that person.
  • Using the words “Recognition means…” as a starting point, create a display depicting colleagues’ written or visual interpretations of recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culture and customs. It could be a drawing, a poem or a story about someone they admire.
  • Invite a local representative to speak at your organisation on the topic of recognition and the history of the First Australians in your local area (contact your local Aboriginal council or reconciliation group). Encourage a discussion about recognition in the context of the 1967 referendum and the Mabo decision.
  • Hold a Welcome to Country ceremony at your organisation
  • Create a RAP – a tool to help organisations to build positive relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Visit the RAP page on the Reconciliation Australia website to find out what’s involved.
  • Have a conversation focussing on both the positive and negative aspects of these topics:
    • Positive discrimination is necessary in a fair society.
    • Symbolic gestures of recognition are not as important as actions.
    • We have already achieved reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
    • What happened in the 1967 referendum.
  • Host a BBQ - try making damper or using native plants to cook, such as lemon myrtle or bush tomato.
  • Play Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander music. Some examples would be: Christine Anu, Dan Sultan, Gurrumul Yunupingu, The Mills Sisters, Tjupi Band.
  • Commission an artwork for your office or home.
  • Volunteer at a local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander group/organisation or for Indigenous Community Volunteers.
  • Write to local politician/PM or newspaper about the importance of reconciliation, advocating an issue in your local area, or celebrating a success story.
  • Get knowledgeable in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cinema. Organise a movie session to watch films such as: Beneath Clouds, Yolgnu Boy, Ten Canoes, Mad Bastards, Toomelah, Radiance, Bran Nue Day and One Night the Moon.
  • Find out about a local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander event, art exhibition, festival (through local government or local Aboriginal councils/groups) and get involved.
  • Go on a cultural walking tour.

Visit the Reconciliation Australia website for more information and to discover what activities and events are taking place in your local area during National Reconciliation Week and throughout the year.

DCA can assist you to develop strategies and policies to attract and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. DCA also works in strategic partnership with other diversity providers on RAPs to provide our members with cutting-edge tools and knowledge. Please contact us for more information on 02 9035 2852 or [email protected].

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