This National Reconciliation Week, how do we reconcile the irreconcilable?

Now, more than ever, I am looking for something to believe in.  

All Australians should be doing that, even though it might be hard to know where to start. 

At a time when we face increasing global conflict and tensions, climate change and environmental disasters, health crises, and economic uncertainty, this nation had a once in a multi-generational opportunity.  

An opportunity to show the rest of the world that as a nation we have reflected, that we prioritised healing, and that we value equity.  

It has been an incredibly challenging 12 months, not only for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but for all Australian peoples. 

We have been confronted with some hard truths about the current state of reconciliation, progress towards reconciliation goals, and Indigenous affairs more broadly. 

And we are confronted with the very bleak reality that once again, we are required to heal a wound, not of our making.  

I recently spent time on Darkinjung Country with Elders and cultural advisors. They helped me recognise that our Community, our mob, has come back from worse and we are resilient. 

When I tell the story of 14 October 2023 to my children, still too young to understand it now, I hope it will be met with scoffs and disbelief.   

I hope I can tell them that it made me stronger.  

And that it made our people stronger, and more determined to achieve the recognition and reconciliation that we deserve and desire. 

Resilience requires diversity and we have always known that diversity is a strength, not a weakness. 

There are diverse experiences and diverse perspectives that fuel my faith in our ability to solve problems and work towards greater reconciliation, greater prosperity, and greater inherent humanity. 

Diverse cultures, diverse views, and diverse opinions are fundamental to a modern, healthy nation-state.   

But once again, we failed to recognise, and failed to acknowledge in any profound and meaningful way, the continuing impact of colonisation on the Indigenous peoples of this land.

We extended an invitation to join us on a path to Voice, Treaty and Truth; that invitation was declined.

This historic coming together of Indigenous peoples to jointly extend a request to the rest of Australia was lost.

How do we reconcile that? 

The impact on mob and on Indigenous affairs will not be reversed by rhetoric, virtuous but hollow sentimentality, or talk without action. 

We need and want action. And we need to see it. Our allies stood beside us, we know and see you. We appreciated your support at this critical time, but we are hurting.  

This year, National Reconciliation Week might be a difficult time for mob.  

In the wake and wash-up of the Referendum, there have rightly been questions raised about the future of reconciliation. Is Reconciliation the best path forward? 

I hear these voices, I do, I hear them loudly and I hear them clearly. But I truly believe we need to come together to get through this and find a new way. 

Now, more than ever, First Nation’s Australia needs to come together with non-Indigenous Australia on a practical and spiritual level. 

It’s been a big year, and I for one, am weary. I might need you to carry a little more of the load for a while longer. But I will come back stronger and continue to fight for what can and must be done. Just like our Community has done for thousands of years.  

This Reconciliation Week, I ask you to reflect on what you believe in. I have the privilege of working with over 5,000 Indigenous businesses and I believe in them. I believe in the positive impact they are having on their families, their communities, and broader Australia.  

I work with almost 900 corporate, government, and non-profit member organisations that also believe in them. Together, they brought over $4.1 billion into the Indigenous economy last year. These actions speak louder than words. 

Despite the hurt, another invitation has been issued and again, Now More Than Ever, we are looking to non-Indigenous Australia to step up. Show us what you can do. Show us real action. This just might begin to help start to heal and reconcile the rejection of 14 October, the most recent in a long line.  

Like many, my faith has been shaken. But I am not about to give in to cynicism. We can come together despite differences and diverse opinions.  

We can do that through common social and economic goals where it has been shown through rigorous research again and again that diversity has value and has an impact on social well-being and sustainability. 

At this critical juncture, we can come together, right here and now, and look to a brighter future than we might have imagined last year.  

Kate Russell is a proud Awabakal woman from Lake Macquarie and is currently Chief Executive Officer of Supply Nation and a Board Director at Diversity Council Australia.