National Reconciliation Week
We had much to commemorate as a nation last week. 26 May was National Sorry Day and 27 May was the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which saw more than 90% of Australians vote ‘Yes’ to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the census, and which gave power to the federal government rather than the states, to make laws for Indigenous Australians.
Shirley Collins from NSW was teaching at Nanama Aboriginal School in Wellington when she voted in 1967. As a non-Indigenous woman now in her 80s, she recalls her clear conviction that day on how she was going to vote:
‘I didn’t have any doubts as to which way I was going to vote. Of course they needed to be counted, because they’re human beings and they are Australians. It was ridiculous that they were never counted in the census and counted as being human beings. It was just so ridiculous.’
Visit the Common Grace website to read more about this.
This referendum, the most successful of all Australian referenda, was a defining event in our nation’s history. The result held such hope and many truly believed that it would mark the beginning of the end of suffering and set Australia’s Indigenous people on the road to equality and improved living conditions. There have, of course, been some improvements, but there is still a long way to go.
27 May also marks the beginning of National Reconciliation Week. This week, bookended by the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and the 25th anniversary of the historic Mabo decision, led the Abbotsleigh Junior and Senior School girls to reflect on Australia’s Reconciliation journey in special chapel services.
As Reverend Stoddart said to the girls, ‘Reconciliation Week is about hope. It is also a time to recognise the wrongs of the past and how they continue to impact Indigenous people. We recognise that Indigenous people were forced off their lands, that their children were taken from them and that these past wrongs have led to continuing impacts on Indigenous communities in the areas of health, education and family.’
In the Senior School service, six Indigenous and non-Indigenous girls shared their thoughts on reconciliation and their reflections on Indigenous Art in the book Our Mob, God’s Story.
Abbotsleigh remains committed to Reconciliation and we encourage the whole community to work together to ‘take the next steps’* in this process. You can find more information here.