National Sorry Day, which is part of Reconciliation Week, is held on the 26th of May to acknowledge and learn from the mistreatment experienced towards indigenous Australians. National Sorry Day was first convened in 1997 in recognition of the Bringing Them Home Report, which investigated the Stolen Generation and the forced removal of Indigenous children.
Reconciliation, which is held between the 27th of May and the 3rd of June, follows National Sorry Day and provides an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the culture of Indigenous Australians and to discuss how to further the cause of reconciliation within Australia.
The dates of Reconciliation Week coincide with two significant events in relation to Indigenous Australia. The 27th of May marks the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum where over 90% of Australians voted to remove discriminatory clauses from the Australian Constitution against Indigenous Australians. The 3rd of June is the anniversary of the 1992 High Court of Australia’s judgement in the Mabo Case, where native title was recognised thus reversing the concept of terra nullius, where the it was claimed that Australia was unoccupied at the time of first settlement in 1788.
The theme for the 2008 Reconciliation Week is Reconciliation: it’s all our story. This reflects that reconciliation is shared between all Australians and all levels of government. The Federal Government recently delivered an apology on behalf of the Parliament of Australia in recognition of the mistreatment towards Indigenous Australians and Maroondah, as the form of government closest to the community needs to follow this leadership in progressing reconciliation.
Maroondah is now flying the Aboriginal Flag at both its Ringwood and Croydon Civic Centres and has a draft Reconciliation Policy, which was recently out for public comment and exhibition. The Policy aims to reaffirm council’s commitment to reconciliation and will need to demonstrate council leadership.
Local government has a key role to play in educating the community and assisting in reducing the gaps in life expectancy, health and educational opportunities between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. We should congratulate the many individuals and community groups, such as the Maroondah Movement for Reconciliation, Learning and Reconciliation Maroondah and the Mullum-Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place, which have worked with council and the community to advance the cause of reconciliation.
The national emblem for National Sorry Day is the Native Hibiscus flower, which is found widely across Australia, and is available from the Kimberley Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation as a silk commemorative flower. Today’s proceedings included the welcome to country by Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Doreen Garvey-Wandin who spoke about her passion for the land, the history of family and the need to continue towards reconciliation.
Many schools and community groups participated in today’s commemoration of National Sorry Day and the proceedings included the hip hop talents of Tjimba and the Yung Warriors whose songs referred to the challenges facing indigenous Australians. It was great to see the many school students partaking the festivities by dancing to the hip hop beat.
It is critical that our community continues to demonstrate its expectation that Maroondah strengthen and further its commitment towards reconciliation. All Australians have the right to expect an equitable society that is free of discrimination and provides opportunities for all and local government has a key role to play in furthering this cause.