Reconciliation requires action – awareness is not the end game

Writer and academic Summer May Finlay uses the results of the 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia report to push allies and accomplices to braver action.

Early this year, Reconciliation Australia released the 2021 State of Reconciliation In Australia Report: Moving from Safe to Brave. I’m sure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who read it, there will be no surprises.

There may even be a few sighs. The reaction is not a reflection of Reconciliation Australia’s ability to produce a high-quality insightful report, but rather a feeling that all of it has been said before. Therefore, someone with a healthy dose of cynicism (which is most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) will be asking, ‘if little has changed before, will much change now?’

Because I am a glass-half-full kind of person, let’s start with the positive points.

The report is the second of its kind—the first was released in 2016. The most significant difference in the findings of the two reports is that currently, the Australian public is more likely to believe the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is essential. Many also think it is vital to Close the Gap in health, justice, education and employment.

This positive change can be attributed to an increase in awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories. Big thumbs up to all those who have taken the time to learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Yet, awareness isn’t enough. It’s not the end game. It’s actually only the very first baby step. What’s required from non-Indigenous people is action. Substantive action. Action that will likely make a lot of non-Indigenous people feel uncomfortable. That makes them squirm just talking about it with like-minded people. What’s required is action that tackles racism including institutional, systemic and interpersonal racism.

Action is what allies and accomplices need to do if they are really allies and accomplices. Not sure what allies and accomplices look like? No fear, I have explained it in a previous article you can go find: Where do you fit? Tokenstic, ally – or accomplice?

But what kind of actions are required? The report outlines several organisations, government and educational institutions that need active participants in the reconciliation process.

The above is an excerpt of an article from the May 2021 edition of Reconciliation News by Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman, lecturer at the University of Wollongong, research assistant at the University of Canberra and  contributing editor at Croakey Health Media.

Read the whole story in May 2021 Reconciliation News, or find more stories in the full edition.

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.

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