Reconciliation 1991 to the present

Reconciliation on a National level

Reconciliation is about unity and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians. It is about respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and valuing justice and equity for all Australians.

Respect and justice have:

  • personal, family and community implications
  • practical and structural implications
  • local, state and national implications

Progress towards reconciliation has been slow.

Below are a few points in the national story.

Reconciliation on a National level

Royal Commission into the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 1991
The final recommendation of the Royal Commission into the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was a formal process of reconciliation between Indigenous and other Australians.

Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation
In response the Commonwealth Government established the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. It was established in 1991 with the unanimous support of the Parliament. The Councils charter was to raise public awareness and consult on a ‘Document of Reconciliation’ within a 10 year legislated period.

The Redfern Park Speech was made on 10 December 1992
by Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating at Redfern Park in Redfern, New South Wales.

Push for constitutional reform February 6, 1995
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) report Recognition, Rights and Reform said constitutional reform is a priority. The report, which was endorsed by ATSIC at its 33rd meeting held in Canberra, said consultations across the country had found overwhelming support for the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the constitution.

Bringing them Home, 1997
Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1997

Support for preamble recognition February 2, 1998
The constitutional convention held at Old Parliament House from February 2-13 to debate proposals on whether Australia should become a republic supported Indigenous recognition in a new preamble.

People's walk for Aboriginal reconciliation May 28, 2000
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation's Roadmap To Reconciliation agenda presented at the Corroboree 2000 called on the Federal Parliament to initiate and support a referendum to deal with Sections 25 and 51 (xxvi) and add recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the constitution. More than 250,000 people walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of Indigenous Australians.

Northern Territory National Emergency Response, 2007
The Northern Territory National Emergency Response (also referred to as "the intervention") was a package of changes to welfare provision, law enforcement, land tenure and other measures, introduced by the Australian federal government under John Howard in 2007 to address allegations of rampant child sexual abuse and neglect in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities. Significant human rights concerns were raised by the particular approach adopted by the government.

Election pledge for new referendum October 16, 2007
Prime minister John Howard makes a re-election pledge to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians. Kevin Rudd, as opposition leader, follows by promising bipartisan support for the proposal, regardless of the election outcome.

Apology to the Stolen Generations February 13, 2008
Prime minister Kevin Rudd delivered an apology in Federal Parliament for the mistreatment of Indigenous Australians. In the speech he committed to closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage and made a statement of recognition "that today we honor the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history".

Closing the gap, 2008
In 2008, COAG (Council of Australian Governments) agreed to six ambitious targets to address the disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians in life expectancy, child mortality, education and employment. They were to:
    • close the gap in life expectancy within a generation (by 2031);
   • halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five by 2018;
   • ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four year olds in remote communities by 2013;
   • halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children by 2018;
   • halve the gap for Indigenous students in Year 12 (or equivalent) attainment rates by 2020; and
   • halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and other Australians by 2018.

Expert panel delivers recommendation 16, January 2012
The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples presents its report to the Gillard government.

Leaders support act for recognition February 13,
2013 Prime minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott addressed Parliament in support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill. Ms Gillard said:
"We must never feel guilt for the things already done in this nation's history, but we can and must feel responsibility for the things that remain undone.
"No gesture speaks more deeply to the healing of our nation's fabric than amending our nation's founding charter.
"We are bound to each other in this land and always will be. Let us be bound in justice and dignity as well."

Long-awaited committee report released June 25, 2015
Liberal MP Ken Wyatt tabled a report, with support from the Government, Labor and the Greens, on progress towards a referendum on Indigenous recognition in the constitution. Political and Indigenous leaders plotted a path to referendum

July 6, 2015 Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
hosted an unprecedented joint summit with about 40 of the nation's most influential Indigenous representatives on the path forward to a referendum.

Referendum Council

The 16-member Referendum Council was jointly appointed by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, on 7 December 2015. The council was to advise the government on steps towards a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.

The council was made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous community leaders and co-chaired by Patrick Dodson,[3] and Mark Leibler AC.[4] Patrick Dodson resigned from the council on the 2nd of March 2016 after being endorsed by the Australian Labor Party for a vacant Western Australian Senate seat,[3] and was replaced by serving council member Pat Anderson AO.

Meeting to reach a consensus document

Over a six-month period the council travelled to 12 different locations around Australia and met with over 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives. The meetings resulted in a consensus document on constitutional recognition, the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

First Nations National Constitutional Convention met over four days from 23 to 26 May 2017.

Statement From the Heart

Council member Megan Davis gave the first public reading of the statement (From the Heart) at the conclusion of the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru.

The convention was adopted by the 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates.







Terra Nullius

U. Secret Country Extract 3: Empty land (2 min 36 sec)

T. Secret Country Extract 2: (2 min 2 sec)

Video Clip L: Rudd's Apology 2008 (4 min 14 sec)

A range of perspectives

Non-Indigenous Australians have a range of experiences and views of Indigenous Australians.

The following video clip shows a range of perspectives?

What's your perspective?

Video - N. Video Clip N: First Contact 2014 (4 min 2 sec)

Stan Grant

Stan Grant addressed an audience in Sydney on the impact of colonisation and discrimination as part of the IQ2 debate series held by The Ethics Centre.

Y. IQ2 Racism Debate Stan Grant (8 min 34 sec)

"We die 10 years younger than the average Australian, and we are far from free. We are fewer than 3 per cent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 per cent — a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons.

"And if you're a juvenile it is worse, it is 50 per cent. An Indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school."

He referenced a famous poem from Dorothea Mackellar, saying his people's rights "were extinguished because we were not here according to British law".

"I love a sunburned country, a land of sweeping plains, of rugged mountain ranges," Grant quoted from the poem My Country.

"It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains. We were shot on those plains, diseases ravaged us on those plains."



Voices: Positive changes and developments

READING 14: Voices: Positive changes and developments

  • READING 14A: Positive changes and developments
  • READING 14B: Tent Embassy
  • READING 14C: Self-Determination and Self Management
  • READING 14D: Land rights
  • READING 14E: 1990s
  • READING 14F: Rights of Indigenous peoples

National Congress of Australia's First Peoples

READING 15. National Congress of Australia's First Peoples

Australian Dialogue Decolonising the Country

READING 16: An Australian Dialogue: Decolonising the Country

  • READING 16A: An Australian Dialogue
  • READING 16B: Dialogue to empower the country
  • READING 16C: A conversation between all Australians
  • READING 16D: Conclusion

Paul Keating’s Redfern Speech

This speech, on indigenous issues, was given by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating, at Redfern Park in Sydney on 10 December 1992 (For non-Australians, Redfern is an inner city suburb of Sydney with an historically large Aboriginal population).
Australian Launch of the International Year for the World's Indigenous People

READING 4 : Paul Keating Redfern Speech

Upper Hunter Case Study

READING 103: Upper Hunter History of Aboriginal and European contact: Part B

  • READING 103C : No Time like the Present: A personal note from Deirdre Heitmeyer
  • READING 103D : Muswellbrook Shire Council document for Reconciliation Statement of Principles

READING 104: Contemporaries

  • READING 104A : Aboriginal community member
  • READING 104B : CEO of Aboriginal organisation

READING 105. The Reconciliation Mural

Uluru Statement From the Heart

Text of: Statement From the Heart