National Reconciliation Week a time for healing

"That’s when I was classed as a human being, and they played a huge role in it." MDAS Interim Chair Vicki Clark

MALLEE District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) Interim chair Vicki Clark said National Reconciliation Week and National Sorry Day are a time for community members to come together, reflect and acknowledge the pain and suffering of the Stolen Generations.

“Reconciliation Week and Sorry Day is a really wonderful opportunity for the wider community to acknowledge the pain and suffering of the Stolen Generation across the region, and also an opportunity for them to support any initiatives that come from the Sorry Day committees that we have – especially the National Sorry Day,” she said.

Reconciliation Week is held during the week of 27 May to 3 June each year to commemorate two significant milestones in the Reconciliation Journey. It marks the successful 1967 Referendum and the Mabo Decision in the high court in 1992, National Reconciliation Week started as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation in 1993, with the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation launching Australia’s first National Reconciliation Week in 1996.

Ms Clark said Sorry Day is a “day to reflect on the past and ask yourself how would you feel when you went home tonight and your children had been taken away by authorities”.

“Many of the older people in this community, Aboriginal or non Aboriginal, whether they’re here or no longer with us – they’re the ones who made the change,” she said.

“They’re the farmers, the teachers, our blue collar workers - they stood up and went to the polling booths back in 1967 and they said ‘things need to change for Aboriginal people, they should be counted and recognized in our Census, not in the Flora and Fauna Act’.

“That’s when I was classed as a human being, and they played a huge role in it.

“The older people in this region and in this country made that happen for me and for all Aboriginal people, and Reconciliation Week and Sorry day are about continuing with that journey today.”

Ms Clark said the days were also about understanding and the recognition of the Stolen Generations and reparation of those who were removed with “horrible force” from their families.

“The wider community needs to understand why remuneration is important to Stolen Generation families, and what it means to them.

“It’s a great initiative of the State Government to actually have a process in place for stolen children and family members, and it’s been a long time coming and finally recognition of the pain and suffering. A lot of people get compensated for many, many things in this country, and this is the first time there’s been any compensation as such for the Stolen Generations - this means there’s recognition of what has happened in our history.

“Sadly though, there are still many Aboriginal children here locally being removed from their families today, but the great thing is there’s more cultural protection for those children than there’s been in the past. There’s more support to link them back.”

She said a key to spreading the word about National Reconciliation Week and National Sorry Day rested with the country’s youngest citizens.

“Most of our schools will be doing activities around Sorry Day or Reconciliation Week, and there’s an opportunity not to be missed there,” she said.

“There’s a chance for parents to ask the question, ‘what did you learn today for Reconciliation Week?’

“It’s the children, the next generation teaching Mum and Dad, having conversations and it’s how the knowledge and learning goes on, it’s how parents can get involved.

“When you look at the region and the number of children we have, there’s thousands of them. What a great way to spread the word – by getting involved and asking questions about what they’ve learned about the Stolen Generation throughout the week.

“’That’s how change happens in people’s thinking over time – by schools being active in this space throughout their curriculum.”

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MALLEE DISTRICT ABORIGINAL SERVICES  “Our Vision: "Self-determined, healthy, robust and culturally strong Aboriginal communities across the Mallee region."

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