Now more than ever” is the theme of National Reconciliation Week in Australia, which runs from 27 May to 3 June.

A wide range of activities, including Indigenous art exhibitions, Aboriginal site walks with lessons in natural medicine, panel discussions, cultural evenings, official events, and even an open training session at a professional football club, aim to raise awareness and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian community.

This year’s week takes on particular intensity and significance following the negative outcome of the 14 October plebiscite, popularly known as ‘The Voice’, which sought to amend the 1901 Constitution to provide a representative body in the Australian Parliament for the more than 800,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 3.2% of Australia’s population.

“Now, more than ever,” says the Week’s appeal, “we need to address the unfinished business of reconciliation. We know that the 6.2 million Australians who voted YES are committed to achieving better outcomes for First Nations people, and they are with us”.

“Supporters of reconciliation must stand up for and defend the rights of First Nations people. To speak out against racism wherever we find it, and to actively strengthen the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across this continent,” they add.

In a long and hard-fought process of grievance and protest, Aboriginal people achieved a partial victory in 1967 when they won formal recognition of the discrimination they faced through another referendum. From then on, a series of affirmative action measures were introduced, along with the passage of important legislation that allowed for greater self-determination and the restoration of some rights.

Another landmark in the struggle for equal rights and opportunities for Australia’s indigenous peoples was the struggle of Torres Strait Islander Eddie “Koiki” Mabo, who in 1992, after a 10-year process, succeeded in getting the High Court to uphold the Aboriginal people’s right of first refusal over areas later occupied by imperialists and settlers.

A cornerstone of the process of reparation and reconciliation is to dispel historical falsifications about the past. Or, in the words of the protagonists, “telling the truth”.

Telling the truth about history not only removes it from the context of colonial conflict and dispossession, but also recognises the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures.

Truth-telling has been at the heart of reconciliation since the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation began its work 30 years ago. As stated in the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation:

“Our nation must have the courage to face the truth and heal the wounds of its past so that we can move forward together at peace with ourselves”.