The Guardian June 7, 2000


Reconciliation walks in Brisbane, Perth

Brisbane and Perth followed Sydney with massive walks in support of 
reconciliation last weekend.

In Brisbane at least 45,000 people and probably a lot more, took part in 
the walk over the William Jolly Bridge towards King George Square. There 
were so many people that both the gathering point and the activities at the 
end proved to have insufficient room for all to gather in one place. 

The theme of the march was overwhelmingly directed towards achieving an 
apology from John Howard on behalf of the Australian Government for the 
genocidal policies of previous Australian governments. 

The overwhelming direction of what is becoming a massive peoples movement 
is towards ending the non-recognition of the right of Aboriginal people to 
self-determination in the context of the Australian nation. The simple 
message "just say sorry" has come to have a content of massive significance 
to Australia as a nation and what constitutes a step forward for indigenous 
and non-indigenous Australians. 

The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Jim Soorley, on behalf of the people of 
Brisbane apologised for the treatment of Aboriginal people and for the 
genocidal policies of the past. 

The overwhelming sentiment for progress on this issue overcame any other 
issues that may have divided the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. 
The absolutely relaxed nature of the huge gathering in which all showed a 
determination to show consideration for the rights of others and for each 
other was an inspirational event for all those who took part. 

There is a simple message to those conservative and racist politicians who 
are seeking to divide the Australian people along racial lines  the 
overwhelming sentiment of the people is against racial bigotry and for 
moving forward to a progressive future. There is a clear message to Howard 
in all of this.

The presence within the crowd of unionists proudly displaying their banners 
is a symbol of unity of those who Howard and his government have sought to 
marginalise through their policy of dividing groups against each other. 

Perth celebration

In Perth, an estimated 2,500 people celebrated Reconciliation Day in 
Forrest Place. The event was organised by the WA Reconciliation Advisory 
Group.

Distinguished Aboriginal leader Fred Collard said: "Here we are on the 
Nyungar people's land, which we enjoy at Aboriginal expense or 
dispossession. We call on the people to help heal these wounds.

Police Commissioner Barry Matthews reiterated the word "sorry" for police 
mistakes made in the past.

Premier Richard Court repeated State parliament's pledge to assist 
reconciliation but rejected the idea of a treaty as divisive.

Primary schools and secondary colleges from Geraldton in the north to 
Albany in the south, walked with forty striking banners in which churches 
were prominent.

An historical drama performed by Aboriginal dance group Panemar moved the 
audience deeply on the wrongs of the past and called for unity in 
reconciliation.

ATSIC strategies

Following the massive city demonstrations ATSIC met this week to decide its 
strategies to take forward the treaty debate.

ATSIC Chairman Geoff Clark said it had decided to endorse the campaign for 
negotiations of a treaty but "resolved that the treaty debate must be based 
upon close consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 
communities.

"The meeting was unanimous in the view that the practical needs of our 
communities must be addressed alongside the continuing campaign for true 
reconciliation," said Mr Clark.

"We must ensure our communities are totally involved. We have endorsed a 
range of short and long term strategies."

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