Look for the similarities, not the differences

It always puzzles me that the idea of reconciliation should ever be controversial. There will be debates about how policy is directed and money spent – and there should be.

However, it seems to me that it should be a pretty basic desire of all Australians to reconcile – to sort through the things that divide us and just get along.

It’s not clear to me why anybody should hold greater or lesser community status – or have greater or lesser opportunities – simply because of their race. People will be judged by their behaviour, sure, but why should they be judged and automatically classified by their background or their blood? Martin Luther King said it best – it’s character content, not colour. I defer to him.

It’s important that reconciliation is led from the top, so that where there were (and are) wrongs, they are acknowledged. But the real change happens between people. Attitudes change when people start to see things from another point of view.

I first visited a remote indigenous community in January, 1988, as part of a reconciliation project run by the Uniting Church. The people I met were remarkable and meeting them changed my life.

Before the visit, a woman from the city gave me a valuable piece of advice.

“Look for the similarities,” she said, “not the differences.”

They were wise words. The differences are usually easier to see. But it’s the similarities that help us begin to understand them.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

Skip to content
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap