The Guardian May 17, 2000


RECONCILIATION: It's time!

In the face of the hard-line, narrow-minded and mean attitude of Prime 
Minister Howard and his equally hard-line Cabinet supporter, Phillip 
Ruddock, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation has maintained its 
principled position in the document drawn up for adoption by the Government 
and the Australian people during the "Corroboree 2000" demonstrations.

At a function to launch a program of films produced by SBS TV (see back 
page), Pat Dodson, the former Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal 
Reconciliation, called on the Australian people "to attend, to go to, to 
demonstrate their commitment and support for the reconciliation process".

In praising and thanking SBS TV, Pat Dodson said that it was "in the 
understanding of the stories that learning and respect can grow.

"And ultimately, when we as a nation come to understand the fundamental 
story of how this land was in the possession of the Aboriginal people and 
became transferred to the British, then we can understand what `Unfinished 
Business' is really about.

"It is about coming to terms with the rights and interests of the 
Aboriginal people, their lands and their seas, their right to be the people 
that they were before the British came and to sustain their cultural and 
social values in the face of an ever changing, rapidly diversifying 
society.

"It's time for Australia to actually make that shift, to make the shift to 
enable the Indigenous people of this nation the freedom to be who they are, 
to be the Indigenous people of this country, and to move beyond simple 
symbolic matters to matters of recognising our presence through our art and 
various other contributions that we make, and to begin to seriously look at 
what needs to be done politically in order to enhance and support the 
aspirations of Aboriginal people for the recognition of their rights and 
responsibilities to their culture and their own heritage.

"That's a matter that has been a cause of division between us since the 
first ships sailed [in] ... and took over the lands here from the people 
without their consent and sought then to subjugate people to a different 
way of life based on a different philosophy, different values, without a 
real basis of re-learning or adapting to this environment, to the people or 
to the values of this country."

Pat Dodson said that "reconciling a nation is a very hard and long process, 
particularly if one side of the nation decides it wants to remain 
entrenched in its perception of what the truth of this country is about."

In describing that "other side" he referred to the "alternative point of 
view in a society that has become caught up with its own myopic view about 
itself".

He went on: "Hopefully ... many other Australians [will] participate in the 
people's movement towards reconciliation, will help to look more critically 
at the off-handed way that Indigenous people's rights and interests are 
discarded and will start to appreciate the importance ... of the number of 
sites in this part of the world, the richness of the cultural heritage, 
[the] heritage of the people from this part of that world....

"When we can do that with a sense of pride and a sense of respect then we 
would have laid not only the foundations of a reconciled Australia but 
would have moved beyond [to] where there is an equality that the Indigenous 
people have sought for so long, equality and respect of our traditions, of 
our culture, when our rights are on a par with those of others who are 
citizens of this country."

Pat Dodson said that when "we are able to get to a stage when we can 
reconcile the manner in which the rights and interests of Indigenous people 
are to be appreciated and expressed, hopefully within the constitutional 
framework, through a treaty or agreement, then we will have arrived at a 
day to appropriately celebrate and to lift our heads with some pride  we 
[will] have achieved a reconciled Australia."

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