During National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June 2020) we speak with Toni Janke, Indigenous Services Co-ordinator Centacare.
The date of the annual National Reconciliation Week commemorates two milestones — the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision. We talk with Toni, about how we can reconcile the relationship between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for a unified future.
Why is it important for Catholics across Australia to acknowledge this week?
I think Reconciliation Week is a time to stop and reflect and acknowledge what reconciliation really means for us as a nation. As Catholics, we tend to speak about reconciliation in the sacramental sense – saying sorry for past wrongs we have committed and seeking forgiveness. As a nation, we need to think about the grave injustices that have been inflicted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to stand up against discrimination, racism and all of the historical wrongs so that they never happen again. We need to acknowledge the need for deep healing and to move forward together with respect and understanding. One of our biggest challenges is acknowledging the truth of this country and the historic justices that have occurred in the past.
It’s 2020. Have times changed when it comes to reconciliation?
Sadly we have still so much to do as our families and communities are still vulnerable or struggling with life challenges and many complex issues. It is not acceptable. We need to constantly review the way we treat Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and how services are being provided. It is not acceptable in 2020 for any family to be denied access to basic services such as health, housing and education. It is not acceptable for us to stand by and see others suffering without speaking up and offering support wherever we can. But this is something we must all do. Everyone is entitled to live well and enjoy fundamental freedoms. Reconciliation is not just about increasing our awareness and understanding of the issues. It is an ongoing process of healing through responsibility and action.