National Reconciliation Week is held annually on 27 May to 3 June in celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and to nurture and grow on the relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. It is important to recognise that Indigenous history and culture is Australian history and culture.
These two dates, 27 May and 3 June, hold great significance to Australians as they represent two major events in our nation’s reconciliation journey. This year is especially significant for indigenous rights as 27 May is the 50 year anniversary of the 1967 referendum where Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the constitution to include Aboriginal people in the census and allow the Commonwealth to create laws for them.
3 June 2017 is also the 25 year anniversary of the Mabo decision, where the High Court of Australia decided that terra nullius should not have been applied to Australia. The landmark decision recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to the land – rights that existed before the British arrived and can still exist today.
Australia’s mistreatment of Indigenous Australians is a national shame. These two cases are significant in our attempt to rectify our wrongdoings; however our journey to complete reconciliation is far from over.
My organisation, Youth Off The Streets takes great pride in reconnecting young Indigenous Australians with their history and culture. I employ Aboriginal youth workers and case workers to connect to young people and encourage them to be proud of who they are and where they come from.
This reconciliation week I implore all Australians to get involved in your communities reconciliation events. I invest in the Aboriginal youth of today, so they can be the leaders of tomorrow.
Father Chris Riley
CEO and Founder at Youth Off The Streets