Much has been written and discussed about reconciliation recently. Many people have asked “But what is it?’
Australians For Reconciliation is a project of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
This council was formed, as an act of legislation, in 1992.
It is a result of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
The vision of the council is: “A united Australia which respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, and provides justice and equity for all Australians”
The council consists of 25 members, from both the aboriginal and wider community.
Patrick Dodson was the first chairman. He was suc¬ceeded in December 1997 by Evelyn Scott.
Other notable members are Sir Gustav Nossal, Senator John Woodley and Ray Martin.
The council is guided by steering committees in each state and territory.
The ACT Steering Committee covers the area including Goulburn, Yass, Canberra, Bombala and Cooma.
It covers six local government regions and Goulburn is now well represented on this committee.
In Goulburn. Reconciliation has been well publicised since January this year.
The first meeting of the Goulburn Reconciliation Group took place on June 18, and was very well attended.
Great progress was made at this meeting, and a number of future issues were decided.
These included a study circle – an informal discussion of issues relevant to reconciliation.
Study Circles address the eight key issues adopted by National Council:
- Understanding country – the importance of land and sea in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies.
- Improving relationships – with few exceptions, relationships between Aboriginal peoples and the wider community have been poor.
- Valuing cultures – Aboriginal cultures arc special, because their values are those of Australia’s first peoples.
- Sharing history – Australia’s history began long before Captain Cook arrived in 1770 – about 40,000 years before.
- Addressing disadvantage – statistics show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the poorest, unhealthiest, least employed, worst housed and most imprisoned Australians.
- Custody levels – indigenous people are arrested at an alarming rate. This was the reason for the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, set up in 1989.
- Destiny – greater opportunity for aboriginal people to control their own destinies.
- Formal document – agreement needs to be reached on whether the process of reconciliation would be advanced by a document, or documents, of reconciliation.
Each of these issues will be addressed, in greater detail, over the next eight weeks. Copies of the Study Circle guidelines, along with videos and computer CDs, are available for inspection or loan from the Goulburn City Library, TAFFE library, or the Southern Region Community College, in the Huntly Arcade.
3rd July 1998