National Reconciliation Week at St Catherine's College


By Amy Papasergio and Sian O’Sullivan

National Reconciliation Week, running from the 27 May to 3 June involves the exploring of shared histories, cultures and accomplishments with all Australians. This week calls us to explore the various ways we can help achieve reconciliation in Australia.

The 2019 NRW campaign is focused on fostering positive race relations through truth-telling, revolving around Australia’s colonial history. This allows Australians to recognise the truth of our history, which is a huge step towards a unified future.

This week implores us to reconcile and create a unified nation, strengthened by respectful relationships between the Australian community, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Traditional dance performance from our Dandjoo Darbalung residents during Cultural Immersion.

Traditional dance performance from our Dandjoo Darbalung residents during Cultural Immersion.

The 1967 Referendum

The week begins on the 27 May to commemorate the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, which resulted in the Australian Constitution being altered to include Aboriginal people in the census and allowed parliament to make laws with respect to Aboriginal peoples wherever they lived in Australia. There is a common misconception that the Referendum granted Aboriginal people’s citizenship, wage equality, social security and citizenship. Prior to the referendum, the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were controlled by state governments.

The Referendum paved the way for important pieces of legislation regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in later decades. It was also the starting point for ‘positive discrimination’, a process of directly addressing the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The referendum acts as a symbol of recognition of the inequalities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face. The act did not end discrimination, and the process of healing and reconciliation is ongoing.

What is Reconciliation?

Traditional dance performance from our Danjdoo Darbalung residents at our Multi-Cultural Week dinner.

Traditional dance performance from our Danjdoo Darbalung residents at our Multi-Cultural Week dinner.

Reconciliation is the strengthening of relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples for the benefit of all Australians. National Reconciliation week is a time for all Australians to learn and reflect on our shared history. It calls non-Indigenous people to acknowledge the colonial history of land dispossession, violence and racism that cause devastating damage to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Mabo Decision

When British colonists arrived in Australia in 1788, they applied the term terra nullius or empty land to Australia, denying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the right to their land. In 1992, on 3 June the Australian High Court recognised that the British settlers took the land without agreement or payment. The decision also acknowledged the unique relationship Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have with the land. It paved the way for the Native Title Act in 1993. This act provides legal recognition of the rights and interests to certain land because of traditional laws and customs in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

Dandjoo Darbalung

Cheyenne Conway

Cheyenne Conway

Our Dandjoo Darbalung program provides a pastoral, cultural and academic program for Indigenous students. One of the key goals of the program is to provide extensive academic support and personal empowerment through a community intent on strengthening cultural identity and leadership.

“The program has been really beneficial to me, I would have struggled with some of my assignments without the help of Ben and Belinda. But it’s not just all about studying, it’s a family environment too. It’s a really rewarding program and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

-One of our residents, Cheyenne Conway, on the support of the Dandjoo Darbalung program.

This week, St Catherine’s College encourages you to participate in National Reconciliation Week through learning. Our Dandjoo Darbalung program offers non-Indigenous residents the opportunity to learn and unlearn, to challenge assumptions and participate in events promoting cultural immersion and multicultural week.

To learn more about National Reconciliation Week, check out their official website here.

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