The Past – What are we reconciling?

As Australians, we are very proud of our culture. Why wouldn’t we be? From the Big Banana, to the ANZACs, to the humble meat pie, Australia is full of ingenuity, impressive people and an ‘Australian spirit’ that’s hard to define. 

Sadly, there are parts of Australian history which we cannot be so proud of.  

The trajectory of Australian history would change forever in 1788. The arrival of British colonists brought with it a campaign of inhumane injustice and atrocities against the First Nations Peoples of this country. The effects of this history, from intergenerational trauma to adverse health and education impacts, are still prescient today. 

Until the Referendum held on May 27th 1967, Indigenous peoples in this country were considered by the Australian Constitution as flora and fauna. For 200 years, this whole group of people, the ones who have inhabited this country for over 50, 000 years, were not counted as part of the Australian population as human beings. 

It wasn’t until June 3rd 1992 that the High Court made the landmark Mabo decision: five brave Meriam people, including Eddie Koiki Mabo, fought for the rights to their ancestral lands. The High Court ruled that before colonisation Australia was indeed not ‘terra nullius’ (Land belonging to no one), acknowledged Indigenous Australian rights to the land which ultimately resulted in the Native Title legislation of 1993.    

When we think about what makes us proud as Australians, we too often forget to factor in this period of history – and its ongoing, current impact – into our national identity and priorities for the future. 

Reconciliation Week starts on May 27th. The first step of reconciliation is acknowledging Australia’s past: all of it, and all the people in it. Each day we gather with children at our centre, we acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land and extend our respects to Elders. This small act helps us create a foundation for education, understanding, and the breaking down of barriers. 

The Present – How can we help?

Historic events such as the Referendum, the Mabo decision, and government apologies are important steps in the right direction but the need for reconciliation continues.  

For instance: 

Did you know that Indigenous peoples have a life expectancy of about 8 years less than non-Indigenous Australians? 

Or that 1 in 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are a part of the Stolen Generations? 

How about that only 62% of First Nations students finish Year 12 – that’s 24% lower than non-Indigenous students. 

This Reconciliation Week, The Girls & Boys Brigade is thinking about all the ways First Nations people have been impacted by colonisation, and how we can bridge these gaps. 

We are passionate about giving all our children and youth equal access and opportunity to learning and education. 

Our programs are holistic, trauma-informed and appreciate the uniqueness of all children and youth. This includes our First Nations children and youth whose culture and heritage we value as part of their identity. 

Through education initiatives like the Homework Room, our children and youth have safe, supportive spaces to learn and connect.  

The Future – Where are we headed?

This Reconciliation week, we’ve had a lot of conversations about Reconciliation. We’ve covered what has happened in the past and the present-day impacts of those events. However, we’ve yet to answer a question that, as educators, we are very used to hearing: 

“But why?” 

Here’s why: First Nations people have been coping with the devastating effects of colonisation for decades. The trauma it caused will continue to be passed through generations unless and until it is healed through Reconciliation.  

At The Girls & Boys Brigade, we acknowledge this truth with hope – hope for a brighter future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples where they have all the tools they need to be empowered, valued, and, above all, equal. 

Then – and this is the important part – we act. We work continuously to better understand and help with issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. We intentionally create opportunities to teach our children and youth about reconciliation. We treat everyone who comes through our doors with respect. 

Creating a space where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families can experience belongingness is a top priority at The Girls & Boys Brigade. That’s why we have created a working group with several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to help us create our own Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Please read it here: https://girlsandboysbrigade.org.au/about-us/reconciliation-action-plan/  

Be Brave. Make Change.