National Reconciliation Week (NRW) runs each year between May 27 and June 3. The theme for NRW 2023 is “Be a Voice for Generations”, reflecting the upcoming referendum on whether an Indigenous Voice should be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution.
This week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared history and understand how we can take steps towards achieving effective reconciliation in our country. This year in particular, it’s a time for us to prepare for the referendum process and what enshrining a Voice to Parliament would mean for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.
What is National Reconciliation Week?
Each year, National Reconciliation Week is celebrated from May 27 to June 3, recognising two significant dates in Australia’s history.
It starts on May 27 marking the day of the 1967 Referendum, which saw 90% of Australians voting to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Census. Until this time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were not recognised as part of our population. This decision altered the Constitution so that the Australian Government could begin enacting laws that would address the inequalities between the indigenous and non-indigenous population.
The week ends on June 3, the anniversary of the 1992 Mabo Decision. This case was taken to the High Court by Eddie Koiki Mabo to fight the notion of terra nullius, or land belonging to no one, in Australia. The court ruled in Mabo’s favour, recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of our land and leading to the passing of the Native Title Act the following year.
These important dates stand as recognition of what First Nations people have overcome and remind us of how far we still must go to effectively achieve reconciliation as a nation. As individuals, organisations, and communities - we all have a role to play.
What is the theme for National Reconciliation Week 2023?
Australia is preparing for a referendum on whether an Indigenous Voice to Parliament should be enshrined in the Australian Constitution. This will be a key step in our country’s journey of Reconciliation. This years’ theme for National Reconciliation Week is “Be a Voice for Generations”, which reflects on the decision we must all make as a part of the referendum later in 2023.
Greenfleet supports Indigenous, Constitutional Recognition via a Voice to Parliament and recognises the nuance within this issue. We support enshrining a Voice in addition to Truth-telling and taking the necessary steps towards Treaty.
What is the Voice to Parliament?
The enshrinement of a Voice to Parliament is part of the recommendations made in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was signed by over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates in 2017.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an aggregated view of First Nations leaders. It is an invitation to Australians to create a better future via a Voice to Parliament, Truth-telling, and a Makarrata Commission.
The Voice will be an independent advisory body made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. While working alongside existing organisations and institutions, the Voice will give independent advice to the Australian Parliament around matters relating to Indigenous Australians.
Greenfleet and Reconciliation
As an organisation, Greenfleet is taking proactive steps to working with Indigenous Australians through our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), First Nations Working Group, and by enabling action on the ground through our work restoring native biodiverse forests on Country.
We respect that we are working with, and learning from, the oldest continuous cultures and longest standing land managers on Earth. There is no climate action without Reconciliation. We will continue to listen and continue to learn as we work towards a better future.
Some of the projects we are working on with Traditional Owners include:
- Restoring 1,100 hectares of ex-pine plantation to native forest in the Noosa Hinterland with Kabi Kabi peoples, the Traditional Owners of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast region.
- Extending wildlife habitat and restoring native grasses that can be used for traditional practices with Traditional Owners in Central Victoria, the Dja Dja Wurrung people.
Through our work, we know the importance of utilising indigenous plant species and are committed to working with Traditional Owners as we continue restoring native forests across the country.
Gunai Kurnai man, Willie Pepper, Welcoming us to Boon Wurrung Country at a Greenfleet event in May 2023. Greenfleet staff and supporters were invited to partake in the Smoking Ceremony before planting trees on this land.
Greenfleet’s CEO, Wayne Wescott asserts that there are three pillars that underpin Greenfleet’s work. The first being removing carbon via native reforestation, the second being the restoration of biodiversity throughout our country and the third being reconciliation with our First Nations People. He said, “In the last few years we have learnt a lot about Reconciliation, and this decade we are working very hard to play a role in moving this forward. Each part of our community needs to play their part”.
“Greenfleet is determined to work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over the coming years to play an effective role with them in enabling action on the ground.”
With the knowledge shared with us by Traditional Owners, Greenfleet wants our supporters to understand and acknowledge the role Indigenous Australians have played in caring for Country for tens of thousands of years.