Work still needed to bridge reconciliation gap
NATIONAL Reconciliation Week was formally launched in 1996 but its origin can be traced back to the 1967 Australian referendum where amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians was conducted.
Taking place on May 27, almost 91 per cent of Australians approved of the changes and they came into law later that year.
While there have been significant steps taken to bridge the gap during the past 52 years, there is still plenty of work left to be done, according to Gladstone Aboriginal and Islanders Co-operative Society manager Cedric Williams.
Mr Williams believes the focus should be on conciliation rather than reconciliation.
"It's not about reconciliation because that is clearly defined as going back to when the times were good. Whereas conciliation is what we are talking about and that gives an honest acceptance that things were pretty crabby back then.
"I have no argument with conciliation - I think conciliation needs to keep moving forward, but it has to be on the basis of being fair dinkum and not to try and throw in statements to pretend it wasn't so bad after all and we should be able to go back to those times.
"That's not what we are wanting to do, we want to move forward with genuine respect and unless we do that there's not going to be any final, positive result - it can't just be done to meet the political needs of governments.”
Plenty has been said by politicians in past decades - Kevin Rudd's 2008 apology speech and Paul Keating's 1992 Redfern speech - but has it been enough?
"There has been things that have been appreciated, like the Rudd apology, Paul Keating and even the handing back of the ownership of Uluru,” Mr Williams said.
"25 years ago the big punchline was 'self determination' and moving towards that. At the time there was more support to allow self determination in the Indigenous arena.
"Then ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission) came along and it was quite a positive time in most ways for the Indigenous people because we were able to achieve things that were decided on our needs and not on the government's needs.”
Mr Williams said support funding for not-for-profit Indigenous groups was lacking in recent years.
"A lot of what we do helps everybody, but for us to be able to get any of that money - there are so many restrictions on it - that it might as well be sitting in the bank earning interest for the government. There's still work to be done.”