This week is Reconciliation Week. A time to learn and remember the shared history and culture of Australia, and reflect on the ways we can all help achieve reconciliation. But we’ve got a long way to go.
This entire week, from May 27th to June 3rd, serves as a time of reflection for our nation, and each of us individually, as to what we can do to help reconcile the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The week is preceded by Sorry Day – an annual day to recognise and remember the mistreatment faced by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed from their homes, known as ‘The Stolen Generations’.
Historically the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is fraught with violence and racism, stemming from the dismissal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners and caretakers of the land.
And although some progress has been made in repairing this relationship, it’s clear we still have a long way to go.
The Destruction of a 46,000 Year Old Cultural Site
Just this week it was revealed that mining giant, Rio Tinto, blasted and destroyed a 46,000 year old Aboriginal site in the Pilbara, to expand an iron ore mine. Two days before Sorry Day.
The site had been a place of continual Indigenous occupation through the last Ice Age up to today. It was also the discovery site of a 4000 year old genetic link to present day Traditional Owners.
Rio Tinto were granted permission to destroy the area in 2013, under outdated legislation written in 1972 which favoured mining companies over Aboriginal heritage. Even after the discovery of these sacred artefacts in 2014, the grant was not lifted, as the legislation doesn’t allow for consent to be renegotiated due to new information.
An unfathomable loss made even more significant, as reconciliation is at the forefront of the national consciousness.
But as one historic site is destroyed, another has been found and is being treated with the respect that these cultural sites deserve.
Rare Rock Art Discovered in NT
In the Northern Territory, an incredibly rare form of rock art has been discovered in Limmen National Park. The miniature rock art, which is only the third of its kind to be discovered in the world, is thought to have been created using beeswax stencils.
The tiny artworks, some only a few centimetres wide, depict a heap of different images including human figures, long-neck turtles and boomerangs.
The discovery was made by Archaeologist Liam Brady and his team from Flinders University with the help of the local Marra community and NT Parks and Wildlife.
This community collaboration and enthusiasm for Aboriginal cultural sites is how we should be respecting the incredible history of this land and its Traditional Owners.
The destruction of cultural sites is the erasure of history, the polar opposite of what Reconciliation Week is about. When it comes to reconciling the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, respecting history and culture seems like a good place to start.
Feature photo by @patcorden