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National Reconciliation Week 2021: More than a word. Reconciliation takes action

We celebrate this National Reconciliation Week 2021, and its theme More than a word: Reconciliation takes action. We also acknowledge 26 May, which is Sorry Day, the day before NRW2021. Please read the AASW's 2004 Statement of Apology.

With recent Black Lives Matter protests and growing numbers of people at Invasion Day rallies, people are becoming more understanding of and speaking up on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year's theme, More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, asks people to take this awareness and knowledge, and use it as springboard to more substantive, brave action.

Everyone has a role to play in Reconciliation. Australia has a dark history of oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and National Reconciliation Week is an opportunity for us to reflect on this history and to do better into the future.

AASW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Director, Professor Sue Green said National Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week are two key moments in our year that, while they remind us of the wrongs of the past, are crucial in helping us move forward together.

“Sorry Day is an opportunity for all of us to engage with the continuing story of the First Nations peoples of this country and their interactions with non-Indigenous people. It is not about making people feel guilty about events that are the legacies left to us all. Instead, it is an invitation to ensure that the historical wrongs do not continue to happen.”

“Social workers experienced in working with people who are recovering from trauma know that full acceptance is a necessary ingredient of recovery. So, understanding the destructive impact of past policies and practices, and accepting that wrongs were committed, is the necessary first step towards a national healing.”

“On Sorry Day, during National Reconciliation Week and into the future we all need to acknowledge that an awareness of the issues is not the endpoint of the reconciliation process. Reconciliation is ’More than a word, Reconciliation takes action’.”

Professor Green said that for the AASW, reconciliation is a positive, reciprocal relationship between First Nations peoples and non-Indigenous people based on trust and respect.

“Reconciliation means that First Nations peoples are able to participate equally and fully in all areas of Australian social, political, community and economic life, and that they enjoy the same health, wellbeing and life outcomes of non-Indigenous people.”

“Awareness is an important starting point but the ambition should be to move away from the safe behaviours we might have undertaken in the past. Instead, it is time to embrace ‘braver and more impactful action’ that will enhance the quality of life of everyone, and to create a society where everyone has the opportunity to flourish and reach their full potential.”

“Brave action means challenging people’s ingrained preconceptions and assumptions, and supporting people, communities and organisations as they embrace change in their behaviours, their policies and procedures.”

Professor Green said the AASW joins with Reconciliation Australia in its call to make sure actions have impact.

“Social workers’ commitment to human rights and social justice means that they are constantly addressing the systemic and structural issues that lead to inequality and injustice.”

“During National Reconciliation Week we call on the whole of community to join us, as we direct our action to ending the discrimination and racism that First Nations Australians still experience,” she said.

Now, more than ever social work has the ability to mend our past wrongs and to be part of the solution of Reconciliation.

There are many National Reconciliation Week events to attend both online and in-person, all are available on the Reconciliation Australia webpage.

The AASW's 2020-2022 Reconciliation Action Plan was launched in 2020 and is available here.

AASW events

Introducing Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making - WA branch (in-person)

Introducing Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making - WA branch (online)

Stay’n Deadly and Stay’n In – an Innovative model of care to ensure Aboriginal patients receive health care - NSW branch (online)

Podcast episode

The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2021 is ’More than a word, Reconciliation takes action’. It recognises that many of us are aware of the issues, but that is not enough. For Reconciliation, we need to take brave and impactful action.

To help us understand what that action might be, today we bring you a conversation with Ms Pat Turner AM. Her long and distinguished career in public and community service includes the renegotiation of the Closing the Gap initiative which resulted in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

For Pat, understanding the difference between the two is the key to understanding the brave and impactful action that Reconciliation requires.

Pat is currently the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and the Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Peak Organisations

Listen to the Brave and Impactful podcast with Pat Turner.

To listen to the 2020 Podcast

Social Work Focus

Read our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander editions

Tom Calma AO: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social workSocial Work Focus: The First Australians: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers