On the last day of National Reconciliation Week (Mabo Day) we are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Yothu Yindi frontman Dr Yunupingu, who died overnight at his home in Yirrkala, East Arnhem Land following a long battle with kidney disease.

Dr Yunupingu was an inspiration to all Australians; a passionate advocate for reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians, and was named 1992 Australian of the Year for his commitment to reconciliation and work as a musician and educator.

Yothu Yindi were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame last December where they pledged their support for the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. We used the band’s popular song Djapana (Sunset Dreaming) for the first ever simultaneous flash mob dances to launch this year’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW) in Cairns and Melbourne. While many Australians will today be grieving the loss of a legendary Australian; we can also be proud of the extraordinary number and diversity of events and actions held around the country to support NRW.

We believe this enormous show of support for reconciliation indicates the progress we have made as a nation over the past 20 years.

Even as two high profile incidents of racism seized the attention of media last week, tens of thousands of Australians walked, listened, sang, talked, tweeted and danced in the biggest NRW ever.

More than 500 reconciliation events and activities were officially registered on the Reconciliation Australia website and many more occurred around the country—including flash mobs, bridge walks, concerts, exhibitions, flag raising ceremonies and morning teas — ordinary Australians demonstrating their support for reconciliation through small and humble acts.

Gurrumul Yunupingu, nephew of the late Dr Yunupingu, received a standing ovation after his National Reconciliation Week guest appearance with Delta Goodrem on The Voice and at the Sydney Opera House; and thousands turned out in Melbourne for the start of the Journey to Recognition and for the AFL’s Dreamtime at the G and Indigenous Round matches.

The enthusiasm and goodwill displayed by the tens of thousands who took part is a tribute to the growing public support for reconciliation and for proper recognition of the culture and history of Australia’s First peoples in our founding document.

Dr Tom Calma AO and Ms Melinda Cilento – Co-Chairs of Reconciliation Australia

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