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Commentary on: Steps towards Reconciliation »

Prof Andrew Jakubowicz.

Text Commentary

“Reconciliation” has come to refer to the “unfinished business” that many people feel continues between Indigenous Australians and the descendants of the immigrants over the past 200 years. The last decade of the twentieth century was planned to lead to a settling of past problems, and the creation of a new future of harmonious relations within a single Australia. The most public symbol of the process was a national “walk across the bridge” campaign in May 2000, when over 500,000 Australians walked hand-in-hand across bridges in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and many other cities.

However Aboriginal people still suffer poor health, housing and community services, and a sense of acute grieving over the cultures and knowledges that they have lost since European settlement. There is now a widespread debate over how these problems can be solved – some people see individual assimilation as the way forward; others argue exactly the reverse, that there should be a formal recognition of Indigenous rights and distinctiveness. Whatever the answers chosen, reconciliation still requires the attention of governments and the wider society.