By Pamela Nathan
When the theme for National Reconciliation Week (NRW) 2020 – ‘In this together’ – was chosen, nobody could have foreseen the events that have made NRW2020 stand out.
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) opened with Rio Tinto blasting an ancient sacred site which included 4000 year-old genetic links to present day Traditional Owners: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/may/26/rio-tinto-blasts-46000-year-old-aboriginal-site-to-expand-iron-ore-mine.
I read this news feeling seismic shockwaves of loss for the Traditional Owners, for Aboriginal people, and for our collective humanity, pound over me.
Reconciliation Week was filled with news of the American ‘black death in custody’ of George Floyd, which sparked ‘Black Lives Matter’ riots and protests across the US and then the world, including in Australia, echoing the high levels of incarceration and deaths and abuse in custody experienced by Aboriginal people in Australia .
On Mabo Day – June 3 – traditionally marking the end of Reconciliation Week, the High Court ruled that tear-gassing of four teenagers at the Don Dale detention centre in 2014 was unlawful: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-03/don-dale-tear-gassing-unlawful-high-court-rules/12315170
Over the weekend, I witnessed black and white Australians rallying together, peacefully on their knees, to end black deaths in custody.
And on Monday, Professor Marcia Langton was recognised with an Order of Australia award. Professor Langton’s outspoken advocacy and tireless work for Aboriginal people, including her work 30 years ago on the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, is monumental.
While COVID-10 has highlighted that we are ‘all in this together’ locally, nationally and internationally, maybe 2020 will a pivotal moment in reconciliation as well.
The events highlight the importance of our dual cultural and therapeutic program for high-risk youth in Central Australia, taking them from custody to country. This program is called ‘Shields For Living. Tools for Life‘ and it offers an alternative to detention and a far more cost-effective and humane alternative.
The events highlight that one of the only ways forward is to accept the recommendations made in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
CASSE changes minds and saves and transforms lives – let us all be in this together.