By Andrew Humphries
As our First Nations people mark two important dates on their calendar this week, Tasmanian indigenous spokesperson Alison Overeem urges Uniting Church members to continue driving the change towards reconciliation.
Today marks National Sorry Day while National Reconciliation Week runs from tomorrow until June 3.
The theme of Reconciliation Week this year is “Be Brave. Make Change” and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Leprena Centre manager Alison says it’s a theme that also lays down a challenge to Australia’s Second Peoples on recognising the need for change in their approach to indigenous relations.
As First Peoples mark Sorry Day today, Alison says it’s time for Second Peoples to do more of the heavy lifting on issues surrounding reconciliation and indigenous rights in general.
“Achieving reconciliation, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t the job of First Peoples,” Alison says.
“(Second Peoples) need to reconcile with their own account of the history of this land and I think there is a whole lot more that needs to happen around that before we can be in true reconciliation with each other.
“For me it’s about people reconciling their perception of the true history of Australia and acknowledging that they live on land that was never ceded by First Peoples.
“There is a lot of commitment and openness to this (from Second Peoples) and once we have a cultural appreciation of the true gifts and ancient wisdom of the First Peoples, we then have to decide what we are going to do with it.”
Reconciliation, says Alison, must start at a local level and involves everybody becoming “warriors for change”.
“So the question becomes what is going to change for each individual, congregation, church and Synod that indicates a commitment towards reconciliation,” she says.
“It’s about an emphasis on what changes we make once we have reconciled in our own minds the true history of Australia and the impact of invasion and colonisation, and then what we do with that awareness.
“Having said that, change may be happening slowly, but it is happening.
“There are pockets of amazing and transformative change and we now need to see it spread more widely.”
Alison has posted reflections on National Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week which can be read here.
To mark National Reconciliation Week, members of the Walking Together as First and Second Peoples Circle Panel are hosting an open online conversation to reflect on the question: what does walking together look like in practice? All are invited to listen in, join in, and share their own stories about walking together. Join on Thursday, June 2 from 7pm-8.30pm (AEST) via Zoom by clicking here.