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National Reconciliation Week: How far have we come?

Samara Gentle

National Reconciliation week commemorates two significant milestones in the history of equal rights for Australia’s first peoples. It was 27 May when the 1967 Referendum took place and 3 June, the High Court Mabo decision.

I look at these dates and reflect on the positive changes that have happened since colonisation and since my time on this earth. But what’s sad is I really struggle.

I struggle to understand how racism is so prevalent in our country and that with the privilege of living in a city like Canberra, it’s not as opening in our face as it is to living somewhere like Darwin or Broome.

I am however, reminded daily, about the continued struggles of Australia’s first peoples. My childhood was spent in the Northern Territory and I still go back occasionally to visit family who live there. I worked in Indigenous Education for over nine years where I was faced with research and studies showing the reality that Indigenous children will not get the same education opportunities as their peers.

And I am an Aboriginal woman of the Jawoyn nation…

In 2008 came the national apology by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and when that happened I thought things were changing. It was a momentous part of history that I will treasure. I was able to witness not only the apology itself but the celebration that took place on the lawns of Parliament House.

But where have we come since then?

  • Shorter life expectancy
  • Higher rates of infant mortality
  • Poorer health
  • Lower levels of education and employment.

These are the realities that still live with us 217 years since Captain Cook landed on the shores of this country. In 217 years a culture has been decimated to a generation who are dealing with the repercussions to the point that they feel unidentifiable.

Identity is such a strong part of anyone. How do you currently identify? How do you expect someone born of a culture with over 455 lost languages to know their place? A culture where only 62 per cent identify with a clan because the rest are still searching their family trees after they were stolen from their families.

And now the forced closure of Aboriginal communities at the hand of the current federal Government, creating more pain and sorrow for current generations.

While in 2008 we made leaps and bounds, in 2015 we are slipping further and further behind.

Reconciliation isn’t necessarily about understanding what someone has or is going through, but standing by their side as they figure it out.

What are you doing this Reconciliation Week to show your support?


Samara Gentle

Samara is a Canberra based freelance makeup artist who specialises in bridal and event makeup but loves the creativity of fashion and editorial. She has a passion for sharing her pro knowledge and seeing other women embrace makeup to help share their personal style. More about the Author