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.