By Richard Trudgen
We have just come through National Reconciliation Week 2021, which should mark the beginnings of a new relationship between First Nations people and all Australians.
When reconciliation is talked about, many people are not sure where to begin. Reconciliation needs to be a human experience, where the human beings involved experience new understanding and new relationships.
The question is – how can we do this?
Twenty years ago, when I was helping groups of non-Indigenous Australians start down the road of reconciliation, I would start by saying to them that they had to do their own homework first. I would send them away to read up on the histories of First Nations people and the events that had happened in their particular area. This was so they had some understanding of real lived history in their region. They would then have a shared starting place when they met First Nations people. Something that none of the group members had done on a social basis up until then.
The groups would meet trimonthly and share resource lists from the local library and other sources. After 12 months, members of the groups would say how much they had changed just from learning some of the real history in their own region. Most were shocked that they lived in that particular area all their lives and did not know what really happened. This was a form of truth-telling or truth-understanding. Understanding for the first time some of the real happenings at the colonial interface. It was the beginning of being able to “travel together in the same canoe.”
Today, I would still recommend, for anyone who is truly interested in reconciliation with First Nation people, to do their own homework first. Read up on the histories in your region, or across the country. There are many great resources available today. This could start a real act of reconciliation.
As another act of reconciliation, send your friends, colleagues, or relatives the book Why Warriors Lie Down and Die. Start a book club or a discussion within your own networks around it or the history of First Nations people in your region.
Why Warriors Lie Down and Die is like a cross-cultural training course, taking readers through history and contemporary issues that many First Nations people still experience today. Many non-Indigenous Australians use it as a starting point to learning what life is like on the other side of the cultural divide. It also shares some wonderful surprises about Yolŋu culture and the language of Yolŋu people in north-east Arnhem Land.
National Reconciliation Week should be a time to do our homework and to meet each other in the middle. It’s a reminder to all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements.
For more information on reconciliation events that have happened or are happening in your area, visit https://nrw.reconciliation.org.au/calendar
To purchase cross-cultural resources, or a copy of our book, Why Warriors Lie Down and Die, visit https://www.whywarriors.com.au/shop/