Today I experienced for the first time the Australian Government Budget lock-up and as was indicated to us at the start of the year, Reconciliation Australia’s funding has been renewed for another four years.

In what is a tight funding cycle, we are appreciative of the Australian Government’s continued support of our organisation and the process of reconciliation. The $14.4 million over the next four years is an enormous vote of confidence in the success and importance of our work and will allow us, with some certainty, to continue engaging the public on issues of reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader Australian community.

As we now know from our Australian Reconciliation Barometer and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Impact Measurement reports, the simple idea of turning good intentions into actions is having a profound effect.

Tens of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander people are directly benefiting from jobs, business transactions and educational opportunities created through RAP actions. And when it comes to attitudes and perceptions, people who work in a RAP organisation are less prejudiced, more likely to trust and be proud of Indigenous Australians and cultures, and take more actions to support reconciliation, than the general community.

With sustained Government support we intend to build on this momentum to grow the RAP community and our partners.

As our existing programs grow in the coming year, we will introduce renewed engagement with schools and the education sector to support the new national curriculum and its cross-curriculum priority on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

Understanding and experiencing the unique cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a cornerstone of building better relationships between first Australians and the broader community.

But this is not only for the young. Moving forward we want to reach out and take reconciliation beyond the workplace and the school environment and see in practiced in the communities where we live and the places where we socialise.

To change hearts and minds we need practical tools and we intend to work with our partners and supporters to create innovative and engaging programs to do just that.

One of those practical actions is updating our Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and I applaud the Government for committing $1.3 million, over two years until 30 June 2015, to support the work of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to establish parliamentary and community consensus on referendum proposals. This is in addition to the $10 million provided to Reconciliation Australia for the Recognise campaign.

Given the circumstances surrounding this Budget, I am also encouraged to see $1.6 billion of new investment in Indigenous Affairs.

This clearly shows a firm commitment from the Government to continue all current efforts under the Closing the Gap agenda.

I also welcome the Government’s ongoing support of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples in the form of $15 million over three years from 2014-15. Having a strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice at the national level is vital to create respectful relationships.

So as tonight’s announcement shows, even in a tight budget, the issues around reconciliation, relationships and recognition are important and will ultimately deliver better outcomes for all Australians. Reconciliation truly is everyone’s business.

Media contact: Al Harris 0409658177 al.harris@reconciliation.org.au

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