Monday, May 16, 2011

What Reconciliation means to me...

For the last 10 years or so, 'Reconciliation' has been the term used by many Australians to describe the process of healing that needs to happen between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia. 

The word ‘reconciliation’ also has a different meaning than the one most of are now use to. Accountants are very familiar with it.

The one we all know when we talk about "Aboriginal Reconciliation" (a phrase .the ending of conflict or renewing of a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups

2. The process of ensuring personal and/or business finanical records are an accurate statement of the balance sheet (according to the best available data); meet accounting standards and legal requirements.

The Australian Government under John Howard, who originally structured ‘Reconciliation’ clearly did not have definition two in mind. And not many people do today either.

But the truth is that Australia cannot achieve definition one, until after it achieves definition two. 

Australia’s outstanding debts to Indigenous people do not just include ‘moral debts’. 

They include the money, land and resources that have been and continue to be stolen from Indigenous Australians.

Not just the initial (and not to be forgotten) original theft of the entire Continent, accompanying islands and all of the natural resources and opportunities for 'wealth development' that came with them.
But that which has been stolen in the much more recent history, and continues today.

This includes wages earned but not paid, from the 'Stolen Wages' campaign to the ongoing stolen wages of CDEP participants. 

‘Compulsorily acquiring’ land on behalf of Private Commercial Enterprises, such as mining, housing developments, farms etc.

Funding paid to organisations to provide adequate service provision for Indigenous communities that are still not available to the same standards as are enjoyed by most non-Indigenous Australians. To schools, universities, TAFEs, and Adult Education providers to provide culturally appropriate and meaningful education to Indigenous students and communities, which still does not exist. To Government agencies and Government funded bodies to achieve improved outcomes in health, education, employment, which again, does not exist. And of course, not to forget the monies allocated to build houses which continue to not yet exist, despite supposedly being a 'top priotity' for several years now.

Australia has been witness to a 52% increase in Indigenous imprisonment rates across Australia in the first ten years of this 'new millennium'. This is a prime example of how money that could have spent achieving both definitions of 'reconcilation' is actually spent by Government.  

Everything from the lack of outcomes to the increased imprisonment rates has been paid for by the Australian tax-payer.

The profits of this have been enjoyed to some extent by the majority of Australians in the form of the varying quality of, and access to products and services that support basic needs and rights such as education,  etc. All opportunity that has ever been provided to any Australian has come at the expense of opportunities for Indigenous Australians as a collective group within Australia. There is is no avoiding that reality about our past and present, but there is a lot of ways that we can work towards that being the reality for our future.

When it comes to the first above listed definition of Reconciliation, the ending of conflict or renewing of a friendly relationship between disputing people or groups. It will be a long and exciting path that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians must walk together. It is one that will increase true respect for each other in greater numbers and to deeper levels than have ever been achieved by Australia before in its history. At this stage though, it is very easy to claim progress, but very hard to achieve in realuty eg even if we only saw our incarceration rates go up by 30% in the next ten years the Government could claim that they were doing better than ever...

However, fully expect that we will have to drag the Government and media along behind of us most of the time. 

If our journey were to be likened to journey undertaken in the Lord of the Rings, our Government would be playing the role of the 'Gollum', staring at their 'Precious'... cheap labour, free land and natural resources, and doing everything it can to ensure it is not destroyed. 

The positive personal relationships that do exist today have not been achieved through Government and certainly not through accurate portrayals in mainstream media. They have more commonly been achieved in spite of Government, and in spite of media. 
It is the Government and Corporate Australia who must reconcile the accounts, but they will only ever do it if enough Australians demand it. 

The other factor we like to forget in our little corner of the World is, well, the rest of the World.
Paul Keating said in Redfern in 1992. "We simply cannot sweep injustice aside. Even if our own conscience allowed us to, I am sure that in due course, the world and the people of our region would not. There should be no mistake about this - our success in resolving these issues will have a significant bearing on our standing in the world."

Reconciliation is really about Australia building a stronger, healthier nation. To achieve this, we must take stock of our past and out present, and consider our path for the future. 

Only when this is achieved can Australia take its place on the Global stage as a responsible Leader in innovation, civilisation, human rights, freedom and justice.

There can be no Reconciliation without Justice.

Reconciliation is Justice.


  1. That is a brilliant article my brother. Well constructed, arguments well justified. Awesome...

  2. Excellent article. Keep up the good work with words.

  3. rosella
    great article!

  4. very interesting, good language.