Working together towards Reconciliation
The Australian Men’s Health Forum is proud to mark this year’s National Reconciliation week under the theme is “In This Together”.
The current health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and boys is one clear social marker that we all need to do more to work together towards Reconciliation.
The men’s health sector in Australia has a proud heritage of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men’s health workers coming together and learning from each, particularly through our hosting of the National Men’s Health Gathering which has incorporated the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Male Health Convention since 1999.
Later this month we'll be facing a specific focus on the health of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander men during our Men's Health Connected online summit.
We know there is much more we need to do and in particular, we are indebted to our board member, Stuart McMinn of Interrelate, who is working with us to keep Diversity and Inclusion on our collective radar as we strive work together to create a healthier future for all men and boys and everyone in Australia.
Stuart has provided us with some background on National Reconciliation Week to help deepen our understanding of why a continued focus on the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people is so vital to work to improve everyone’s health.
About Reconciliation Week
Reconciliation week is celebrated every year from the 27 May until the 3 June and coincides with two major events throughout Australian history that were huge steps towards reconciling Australia’s past poor treatment of First Nations Australians.
May 27 is the date of the 1967 referendum where 97% of all Australians voted “Yes” to including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the consensus. Australians also voted to remove clauses in the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
June 3 marks the date that Eddie Marbo won a landmark case in 1992, where the High Court of Australia recognised ‘Native Title’. This High Court decision recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s sovereign rights over their lands. Both of these important historic dates are not only the reason we have the opportunity to celebrate reconciliation but were massive moments in history where many First Nations people had campaigned tirelessly and most often unwelcomely to advance the rights of the people who have inhabited this land for hundreds of thousands of generations.
A wonderful saying is “We stand on the shoulders of great ancestors”. During this week and more importantly throughout the year on a daily basis we remember those peoples that fought so hard. Such as Eddie Mabo, Charlie Perkins and the countless other First Nations people that pushed for equality and equity in a time where racial discrimination was extremely prominent. They are true heroes.
On 26 May, the day before Reconciliation week begins, we also commemorate “National Sorry Day”. National Sorry Day is a day set aside to remember and consider the actions that took place during what has now been named the “Stolen Generations”. During this period in Australian history many Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and traditional lands to be placed in the care of non-Aboriginal orphanages and religious missions. Some children were given to non-Aboriginal families to be used as domestic servants and were never to be reunited with their family nor have any further links to their Aboriginal heritage. This took place under the orders and instructions of the “Aborigines Protection Board”.
On 26 May 1997, the Bringing Them Home Report was tabled in the Federal Parliament. As well as revealing a painful and previously hidden chapter of Australia's history, the Report made a wide range of recommendations, including that compensation should be paid as part of comprehensive reparations to the Stolen Generations.
This aroused a great deal of public discussion as it included that governments of the day should say sorry to those who suffered under the forcible removal policies through a formal apology. The report also recommended there be a national 'Sorry Day' held each year.
Amidst this national debate, Aboriginal people set up a National Stolen Generation Working Group. They invited non-Indigenous people to join with them to set up a National Sorry Day committee.
The inaugural Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 - the anniversary of the day the Bringing them home Report was tabled. As Carol Kendall said “The ceremony will validate the experiences of removed people and celebrate the strength, resilience and determination of those who survived these policies”.
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