National Reconciliation Week in Australia runs from 27 May – 3 June each year. It is preceded by National Sorry Day on 26 May. Reconciliation week is about celebrating indigenous culture and history, and encouraging discussion on how to build better relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous communities.
These dates have been chosen because they mark two milestones in Australia’s reconciliation history: The 1967 referendum and the Mabo decision.
27 May 1967 – In the referendum, more than 90 per cent of Australians voted to give the Australian government power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and recognise them in the census. Indigenous Australians were given the same consitutional rights as other Australians.
3 June 1992 – The Australian High Court delivered the Mabo decision. Eddie Mabo challenged the Australian legal system to recognise the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the traditional owners of their land. The result of this case saw the high court decree that Terra Nullius (land belonging to no one) should never have been applied to Australia. This paved the way for land rights or Native Title.
You can read about the referendum and Mabo decision here (short article + discussion questions):
Tasks for National Reconciliation Week:
2. Work with the stepping stones on the NRW 2017 poster:
In groups of four, each pupil takes an event on each of the stepping stones and makes a short presentation of this event. Find at least four pictures to illustrate your presentation. Present the event you have chosen to the other 3 members of your group.
Make a poster with a timeline showing each of these events. Choose at least four pictures that represent each event and add them to your poster. When you are chosing pictures, choose ones that how the situation has changed for Aboriginal people, but also what challenges there still are.
3. Discuss topics relating to reconciliation:
a. What does reconciliation mean?
b. What is and what is not reconciliation? Why? Give examples.
c. What makes a good relationship?
d. What makes you feel pride (both in yourself and those around you)? What makes you feel disrespected?
e. Why is it important to respect others? Who decides what respect is?
f. What can be learn from history? How can this knowledge be transfered to our lives?
g. What tasks involving reconciliation can individuals become involved in?
(Discussion points adapted from https://www.narragunnawali.org.au/uploads/media/curriculum-resource/NRW%202017%20-%20Teaching%20and%20Learning%20Ideas-56a113230b.pdf )
- Watch a film about indigenous Australians and discuss the issues it raises, such as Rabbit Proof Fence.
- Black Comedy is a series with indigenous actors focusing on Aboriginal issues in contemporary Australia. You can find many of their sketches on YouTube. Start off by watching this sketch. What can you learn from it about attitudes to indigenous people in Australia?
3. Cartoon analysis (for advanced pupils):
First Dog on the Moon publishes cartoons relating to Australian politics and social issues. Click on the link to see the cartoon about NRW. What is the message of the cartoon? How does the cartoonist get his message across?
National Reconciliation Week website with resources: http://www.reconciliation.org.au/nrw/resources/
Information and resources for National Sorry Day from Reconciliation Australia: https://www.reconciliation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Sorry-Day-PDF.pdf
Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning (supports schools and early learning services across Australia to develop environments that foster a higher level of knowledge and pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and contributions): https://www.narragunnawali.org.au/