25 May 2005

National Day of Healing : Everyone’s responsibility

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, today urged Indigenous Australians and all communities within non-Indigenous Australia to support the many NationalDay of Healing events being held around the nation to show their ongoing support for reconciliation.

'Reconciliation concerns both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians - we are bound to each other’s fate. In order to achieve reconciliation we must heal together - reconciliation is everyone’s responsibility,” said Mr Calma.

Commissioner Calma also welcomed the National Sorry Day Committee’s decision to rename this national day of recognition (26 May) from ‘Sorry Day’ to the newly titled ‘National Day of Healing’.

This date commemorates the anniversary of Bringing Them Home: the Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families which was published in 1997 by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

'No other group in Australia’s history has had their children taken away from them on such a massive scale as was the case for Indigenous Australians. The wounds are deep and the healing process is ongoing, but days such as this definitely contribute to the process in a very positive way,” the Commissioner said.

Mr Calma is also encouraged by recent comments from the Prime Minister stating a recommitment to reconciliation (as noted in the Weekend Australian).

However, the Commissioner cautioned that Indigenous Australians have experienced sweeping reforms to government policy making and program delivery over the last two years, as seen with the restructure and subsequent abolition of ATSIC, the mainstreaming of Indigenous services, and changes to legal services, Indigenous education and the CDEP.

'As I stated in the recently released Social Justice Report 2004, time only will tell if these changes improve Indigenous peoples’ lives and ultimately reduces the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’ wellbeing,” Mr Calma said.

'If the government plans to reform its practical reconciliation policy, I urge it to do so only after genuine consultation with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Opening up dialogue on any proposed reconciliation reforms at Reconciliation Australia’s upcoming National Reconciliation Planning Workshop would be a good starting point for such a discussion.”

Media contact: Paul Oliver (02) 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347

Last updated 25 May 2005.