By Julie Owens

01 June 2021

This week is National Reconciliation Week – a time for all Australians to listen, learn and reflect on what we can do to help achieve reconciliation in this country.

The days we observe just before and during the week are a good place to start.

National Sorry Day remembers the grief, suffering and injustice experienced by the Stolen Generations on May 26, the anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing the Home report in Parliament.

This report was the result of an inquiry into government policies which saw thousands of First Nations children forcibly removed from their families and communities. It brought to light the stories of cruelty, abuse and neglect abuse experienced by the Stolen Generations in places like the notorious Parramatta Girls Home.

In Parramatta, these stories reach back to 1815, when Governor Macquarie established the Parramatta Native Institution. 37 Darug children were removed from their families to be "civilised, educated and Christianised" at the institution - foreshadowing the policy leading to the Stolen Generations

This is not just history – today, there are almost 19,000 First Nations children in out of home care, and First Nations children are 11 times more likely to enter out-of-home care.

Reconciliation Week begins on May 27, the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, when Australians overwhelmingly voted ‘yes’ to count First Nations people in the census, and give the government power to make laws for them.

It concludes on Mabo Day, June 3, which commemorates Eddie Koiki Mabo’s 10 year court battle, which resulted in the landmark High Court decision recognising First Nations people as traditional owners of the land in Australian law.

Understanding the truth of our history is essential for reconciliation – but as the theme of this years’ Reconciliation Week reminds us, Reconciliation takes action.

On National Sorry Day four years ago, First Nations communities came together to deliver the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which sets out a clear course of action for reconciliation in this country.

They told us they wanted a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of truth telling and agreement making.

This would ensure First Nations people had a voice on government decisions that affect them; allow us to properly acknowledge the truth of our past; and work towards a Treaty with our First Nations people – something that was achieved in countries like New Zealand, Canada and the United States centuries ago.

Four years later, First Nations people are still waiting for the Morrison Government to take action.

So far, they’ve only committed to legislate a voice to Government, which is not what First Nations people asked for, and they haven’t said how or when they intend to do this.

Labor supports the Uluru Statement in full – and I will continue to call on the Government to listen to First Nations voices and take action. I encourage everyone to read it – click here for links to the Uluru Statement and more info on how you can support it.