Ms Jackie Huggins

Board Member, Reconciliation Australia

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

This statement represents an extract from Jackie Huggins' address at the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA) National Conference in Western Australia, November 2000. The full text of the address is displayed on the Reconciliation Australia website www.reconciliation.org.au

The extract is reprinted with the permission of Reconciliation Australia, with encouragement to visit their site for other information and resources on reconciliation.

Reconciliation: The Unfinished Business

Reconciliation does not work to a strict timeline like other projects. It succeeds or fails in the hearts and minds of all Australians.

Reconciliation is a people's movement, ladies and gentlemen, and since the pivotal Corroboree 2000, that movement has been thriving. Never before has the nation witnessed a gathering of all our political leaders and the Governor-General in one place, at one time, at such an event. By their sheer presence they signalled to the nation that the matter of reconciliation is of national importance.

The next day we witnessed the People's Walk for Reconciliation across the Sydney Harbour Bridge which was again one of the most significant mobilisations of people in our history.

When the Council ceases to exist after December 31 this year, we know there will be unfinished reconciliation business. Outstanding matters such as an apology and addressing Indigenous disadvantage will not disappear with the end of the Council's life. That is why we have focused on these matters in our reconciliation documents and in our final report to Parliament.

To address the unfinished business, reconciliation must be part of everyday life in every community in Australia. It has to translate into practical commitments in homes, neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, clubs, local authorities and in every field of human endeavour. It has to be backed by local and national leadership.

As I mentioned before Council has written two national documents to help guide all Australians on the path to reconciliation. These documents represent a decade of work. The Declaration Towards Reconciliation is a symbolic statement whereas the Roadmap for Reconciliation sets out four practical strategies to advance reconciliation.

These two documents are a call to action. Key elements of the documents include:

  •  An acknowledgment of the truth of our shared history. This requires a range of educational initiatives in the areas of formal school, the training of professionals and in raising community awareness.
  • Greater government accountability. Governments provide most essential services, yet serious disadvantage remains for many Indigenous communities. All service providers must be held accountable through the setting of measurable targets and the public reporting of performance.
  • A legislative process to deal with unfinished business. The proposed framework legislation allows for negotiated outcomes on matters such as rights, self-determination, traditional law and constitutional reform.
  • The establishment of a representative national body called Reconciliation Australia so the people can now lead the way and help keep reconciliation in the national agenda.

We realise that not everyone may be ready to fully embrace all the proposals at this time, but Council hopes these documents will lead the way to a genuine and lasting reconciliation. Different people and organisations will express themselves in a way that is appropriate to their own circumstances. However, the desire of the Australian people is clear. People want reconciliation.

I am confident that Australians will eventually reach our goal of reconciliation. I hope that your organisations, agencies, parliaments, governments and communities will consider ways to put the Council's Roadmap and Declaration into practice so that we can reach that goal. We may have unfinished business after Council ends on December 31, but Australians have shown they have the determination to see reconciliation through to its fruition.