Learn about the significance of National Reconciliation Week and what reconciliation means for South Australia's environment.
National Reconciliation Week falls on 27 May to 3 June every year. It’s a time to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
This year’s National Reconciliation Week theme is Be Brave. Make Change. This is a challenge to Aussies – individuals, families, communities, organisations and government – to be brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can make change for the benefit of all Australians.
We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we help build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, cultures and futures.
Why do we celebrate National Reconciliation Week when we do?
At the heart of National Reconciliation Week are 2 key dates in Australian history:
- 27 May is the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum. This was Australia’s most successful referendum, when more than 90% of the Australian population voted ‘yes’ to change the Constitution so that like all other Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples would be counted as part of the population and the Australian Government would be able to make laws for them.
- 3 June is the anniversary of the Mabo decision, a turning point for First Nations rights. On this day, the Australian High Court overturned the legal fiction of ‘terra nullius’ (land belonging to no-one), leading to the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of lands. This decision paved the way for the passing of the Native Title Act in 1993. Native title is the legal recognition that some First Nations people have rights to certain land through their traditional laws and customs, which predated the arrival of the British.
So, what does this mean for the environment in South Australia?
The Department for Environment and Water works in partnership with the First Peoples of South Australia and supports their Nations to take a leading role in caring for Country.
One of the most successful programs that focusses on reconciliation is park co-management. Co-management is about bringing together traditional Aboriginal knowledge and contemporary park management perspectives on the importance of looking after land.
Co-management has many benefits: it leads to better cultural site protection, maintenance of traditional practices, and improved management through the combination of traditional knowledge and contemporary science. It also educates the wider community about ‘healthy Country’ and brings them along on a journey of mutual respect and understanding.
There are currently 12 co-management agreements covering 34 parks in South Australia, with more planned for 2022/23.
As a result, Aboriginal people are connecting with Country and managing relationships for future generations to come.
This National Reconciliation Week, why not think about ways that you can be brave and make change?
Main image: Ardrossan grassland burn (image courtesy of Matthew Turner, Northern and Yorke Landscape Board.)