The 13th of February 2024 marks 16 years since the then Prime Minister, on behalf of the nation, presented a motion to the Chamber offering a formal apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples, particularly the Stolen Generations.

This motion acknowledged that the:

‘laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments had resulted in the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and
‘inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians’.

One would say that this is a significant day in Australia’s history with emphasis being placed on greater reconciliation. All it really showed, however, was that a significant act cannot be done in isolation. There needs to be a broader, collective approach to reconciliation than just ‘we are sorry’.

What do we mean by ‘greater reconciliation’ when we as a nation cannot get the fundamentals of reconciliation right. It certainly doesn’t scream reconciliation when we are still experiencing large gaps in health and education, when incarceration rates are still extremely high, and when there is such a high representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care.

The buck must stop with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in evolving the narrative of reconciliation and what that means to us in a contemporary society. When a more detailed and raw history as told by our people, we are once again brought back to understanding truth-telling and its benefits. This impacts our understanding of the trauma and loss experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the time either as a child being removed or as a parent seeing their child being forcibly taken from their arms. Consequences that led to a permanent loss of identity, culture, language, traditions, and family. The very things that make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people what they are today.

The Stronger Smarter Institute intentionally builds in the ideologies of reconciliation into all its programs, research, and work. Our work is about mindset shift and taking responsibility as being change agents in our schools and communities. The importance of deep listening and centring of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices is critical in developing a deeper understanding and introspection to build and yield greater reconciliation outcomes. The conversation must come from a place of acknowledging the complex histories of community – historically, socially, culturally, and emotionally.

Today would be a great time to reflect on those words from 2008 and come to some real aspirations about how you can shift your mindset to develop a deeper understanding of why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people find it terribly difficult to move on from a past that they lived or have been intergenerationally affected. We are not asking you to take the blame for those atrocities, we are simply asking that you take the time to do some soul searching and find the truth. With this truth, we ask you to reflect on how you can be a change agent in the reconciliation movement. One person can truly make a difference. Why not start today?