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Finding Common Ground:
Towards a Document for Reconciliation

Documents of Reconciliation > Relevant Council Publications >

3. The Draft Document for Reconciliation

The Document for Reconciliation would be an agreement among all Australians - Indigenous peoples and the wider community - on accepted principles that will guide the way towards a fair and equitable Australia. As an agreement it implies good faith and acceptance by both parties who will go forward as friends and equals.

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation has called its draft a Document for Reconciliation, recognising that it would be an important milestone towards true reconciliation but that the reconciliation process will need to go on for some time into the future.

Nobody expects, for example, that the massive disadvantages suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health, housing, custody rates, education and employment will be overcome by the end of the year 2000.

However, with goodwill and determination Australians could achieve by this date an agreed document which commits the nation to reconciliation and to realistic strategies to ensure justice and equity for all. Over time, this national document could be complemented by further documents in communities and regions around the country which are relevant to their situations.

Structure of the Draft Document

There are two broad strands to the process of reconciliation.

One could be described as the emotional and spiritual side, where Australians come to terms with the past - the shared history of the last 210 years and the Indigenous history of the previous 60,000 or more years - and agree on the principles which will guide our future together.

The other strand is the practical side of reconciliation. This includes government actions and policies, cooperation in local communities and workplaces, and change in our society's institutions and attitudes.

These two strands are reflected in the Council's Draft Document for Reconciliation which consists of two parts, a Declaration for Reconciliation and National Strategies to Advance Reconciliation.

Declaration for Reconciliation

Through the Draft Declaration for Reconciliation, the Council is seeking a commitment to greater understanding and appreciation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community. The Draft Declaration seeks to acknowledge the history of relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider Australian community and commit us to a future that is fair to all.

The Council believes the Declaration should be unifying, uplifting and forward-looking, but it must also be truthful and sincere in acknowledging both the past and the present so that we can go forward together.

The Council hopes that the final Declaration for Reconciliation will be endorsed by all parliaments and eventually protected in legislation or under the Australian Constitution. It also hopes that the Declaration will be recognised or incorporated into significant civic and political events, will be taught in schools, and will become part of the symbolic and ceremonial life of the nation.

The Declaration should stand as a great and permanent symbol of the spiritual reconciliation of this nation and the kind of Australia we want to have in the future.

National Strategies to Advance Reconciliation

The second part of the Draft Document consists of four Draft National Strategies to Advance Reconciliation:

  • A National Strategy for Economic Independence;

  • A National Strategy to Address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Disadvantage;

  • A National Strategy to Promote Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights; and

  • A National Strategy to Sustain the Reconciliation Process.

The National Strategies will ensure that Reconciliation becomes a reality in people's lives. They will map out the steps we must take as a nation and the practical commitments we must make as individuals, organisations and communities.

The proposed strategies cover a wide range of issues. They are based on the Council's work over the past eight years, particularly the social justice consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 1994 which resulted in the Council's social justice submission to the Commonwealth Government in 1995.

The National Strategies to Advance Reconciliation will act as a reminder that there's still plenty to be done on the practical side of reconciliation. The Strategies will put squarely to governments, institutions and people this challenge: that only when the massive disadvantages still suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are tackled and beaten will the full meaning of reconciliation be realised in this country.

Some parts of these strategies may be easy to put into place while other parts will be harder to implement. But the Council strongly believes that we must tackle these more difficult issues if we are to move forward as a nation at peace with ourselves; if we are to achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and if we are to provide justice and equity for all Australians.

The Council will work with governments, business, peak organisations and key individuals over the next twelve months to negotiate and write up detailed and practical strategies so they can be supported by the people and organisations who will carry them out.

Your views and suggestions about the Draft Document for Reconciliation will be a great help to the Council in developing its final proposals.

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