Meanings and Perspectives of Reconciliation in the Australian Socio-political Context

By:
Dr. Nina Burridge
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The policy of national reconciliation between Indigenous and non Indigenous peoples has been on the social and political agenda for decades, yet progress on this issue of Australian’s ‘unfinished business’, seems to have stalled in the last few years. This paper seeks to map the various interpretations and meanings of ‘reconciliation’ in the Australian socio-political context, from the creation of the Council of Aboriginal Reconciliation in 1991, to the controversies emerging from the ‘cultural wars’ history debates of the last few years. It provides an framework for the various discourses of Reconciliation, by exploring and analysing the accrued meanings to such terms such as ‘genuine’ or ‘true’ reconciliation ‘symbolic’ reconciliation and ‘practical Reconciliation’ a term used extensively under the Prime Ministership of John Howard.

In the current political context in Australia is reconciliation no more than a normative discourse – a symbolic gesture by mainstream Australia to maintain the status quo and divert our eyes from the more searching questions of the ‘unfinished business’ of ‘substantive’ reconciliation such as the issue of a treaty and just compensations for past injustices for Aboriginal people.

This paper suggests that the journey towards reconciliation between black and white Australians is convoluted and complex. It is mired with political and social agendas which are inextricably linked with the national consciousness, with Australia’s sense of self, the various views and interpretations of its history, and its multiple national identities. In reality, given the lack of national will to address the substantive issues of reconciliation, the journey still has many a path to tread.


Keywords: Cultural Diversity, Reconciliation, Indigenous, Black White Relations
Stream: Politics of Diversity, Race and Racism, First Nations, Indigenous Peoples, Learning, Education, Training
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Meanings and Perspectives of Reconciliation in the Australian Socio-political Context


Dr. Nina Burridge

Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Technology, Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Nina Burridge began her career as a high school teacher in History and moved into higher education as a teacher educator. She sees herself as both an academic and an activists. Her main research interests have been Indigenous education and the implementation of the policy of reconciliation in the education and community sectors. She has published papers and educational materials on how Indigenous education in school and on approaches to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in the current socio-political context. She has been the director of the Institute of Aboriginal Studies and Research at Macquarie University in Sydney and is currently lecturing in the Faculty of Education at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her emerging interests are in the areas of social justice and cultural diversity and she has been a campaigner for many issues related to refugee reforms and human rights at the local and national levels within the Australian community.

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