Karen Mundine has been involved in reconciliation for several decades, culminating in her appointment as CEO of Reconciliation Australia in 2017.
Ms Mundine is from the Bundjalung Nation of northern NSW. She was formerly the Deputy CEO of Reconciliation Australia and has more than 20 years’ experience in community engagement, public advocacy, communications and social marketing campaigns.
She has held senior public affairs and communications roles with federal government departments including Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Over the course of her career Karen has been instrumental in some of Australia’s watershed national events, including the Apology to the Stolen Generations, Centenary of Federation commemorations, Corroboree 2000 and the 1997 Australian Reconciliation Convention.
What or who got you involved in reconciliation?
I was raised in a family where we were always taught to be the best that we could regardless of what that was. But also with an understanding that we had opportunities that other people didn’t. And part of the deal of being given these opportunities is you have a duty to give back. I want to make this country a better place for myself, my friends, my family, my nephews and nieces.
What does a reconciled Australia look like to you?
Reconciliation isn’t a single moment or place in time. It’s lots of small steps, some big strides, and sometimes unfortunate backwards steps. A reconciled Australia is practicing respect, understanding and empathy for the first peoples of this nation, in our everyday lives—in schools, workplaces, sporting clubs and community spaces, but also in our laws, policies and systems of government.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to national reconciliation?
An ongoing challenge for us is not being too disheartened by the setbacks. I think we have a strong network and amazing community of people who are all about change and who want to see change, but it’s not everyone. We still have to work to convince others. And that will sometimes create hurdles for us… but I guess the challenge for the moment is not to be disheartened by that. It’s too easy to give up and walk away. People have been fighting for social justice and civil rights for hundreds of years. If our ancestors could stick it out, then so can we.