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Media Release
Reconciliation - stalled or fermenting?

EMBARGO: 26 May 2005

Date: 24 May 2005
Contact: Sr. Patty Fawkner on (02) 9356 3888

On the occasion of Sorry Day, Sr Patty Fawkner, Director of Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre, issued the following statement:

May 26th 2005 is national Sorry Day. It is exactly eight years since the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Federal Parliament and five years since the famous Bridge Walks for Reconciliation.

But many of us may wonder where the Reconciliation process is today.

There are indications that it has stalled since that heady day in 2000 when 250,000 people braved a bitterly cold May morning to walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge, pledging their support for Reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

There are also counter indications that the reconciliation process is fermenting in numerous creative grass-roots partnerships between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Then there is a view that the process is neither stalled nor fermenting but has been hijacked by an ideology, espoused by the Federal Government, which promotes a false dichotomy between practical and symbolic reconciliation.

The Government says that its commitment to practical reconciliation is expressed in addressing fundamental issues of health, housing, education and employment. However, a number of indicators show that the well-being of the indigenous community continues to go backwards. The life-expectancy of an indigenous Australian is approximately nineteen years less than that of a non-indigenous Australian, so it is an inescapable conclusion that indigenous health must be regarded first and foremost as a human rights issue before it can be considered an example of ‘practical reconciliation’.

National Sorry Day is not an empty symbolic gesture. It is not about guilt. It is about acknowledgment of past wrongs and a commitment to promote both practical and symbolic reconciliation within all aspects of Australian society and culture.

There is much healing to be done and the organizers of National Sorry Day have also named May 26 this year a National Day of Healing. Indigenous leaders are therefore expressing their desire and their hope for both practical and symbolic reconciliation.

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