Page 3721 - Week 10 - Thursday, 14 September 2017
recognised part of a shared national identity; and, fifthly, historical acceptance, where there is widespread acceptance of our nation’s history and agreement that the wrongs of the past will never be repeated.
These dimensions are important to help us develop a vision and shared language for what reconciliation could look like in the future. There are some strong foundations to build on, with 86 per cent of Australians believing that the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is important, and 64 per cent agreeing that cultural diversity makes us stronger. Most Australians also believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are important to Australia’s national identity and agree that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold a unique place as the first Australians.
At the same time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still experience high levels of racial prejudice and discrimination, are more likely to consider their living conditions worse than other people’s and are more likely to see barriers to employment and education. And then there are some areas with mixed results. Reconciliation Australia found that only around 30 per cent of Australians are knowledgeable about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, but 83 per cent of people believe it is important to know more and strongly support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories being a compulsory part of the school curriculum.
While 44 per cent of Australians want to support reconciliation, most do not know how to. Yet we know that when people participate in reconciliation activities their knowledge improves and their views on the relationship change significantly. This is where the introduction of Reconciliation Day can make a practical difference to the reconciliation process. By providing a dedicated time and space for Canberrans to participate in reconciliation activities and engage in conversations, we will, hopefully, see improved understanding, stronger relationships and a more unified community.
It is for these reasons that the Greens are pleased to support a Reconciliation Day public holiday. But to make sure that this can be a meaningful and unifying day, we need to invest in activities to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture so that it does not just become another public holiday. With Canberra’s abundance of art galleries, museums and libraries, and the many talented artists, musicians and story tellers across our community, there is no reason why this cannot be a day to bring people together.
The day also needs to be accompanied by a public education campaign supporting Reconciliation Day, to promote activities and give people practical ways of engaging with the concept of reconciliation on the public holiday. In keeping with the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander agreement 2015-18, the ACT government should work with local Indigenous community leaders to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people take the lead roles in designing programs, events and activities.
I would now like to speak briefly about the community response to this announcement. While overall it seems that it has been well received, I do acknowledge the feedback