National Reconciliation WeekGladstone News spoke to a local Indigenous man, Alf, about National Reconciliation Week. 

Why is reconciliation important?
It remains critical that there is a process of reconciliation that filters down right through to school children, new Australians, immigrants and the rest of the wider community. It is culturally crucial that all Australians are reminded about the indigenous struggle for rights, commencing with the frontier wars. That history is a part of all modern Australian’s heritage, identity, and legacy.

How has life improved or for Indigenous people since the referendum?
Life for indigenous people in modern Australia has improved in some ways and deteriorated in socioeconomic terms. Understanding the disadvantages and their causes is complex and involves statistics from infant mortality, education, and employment to chronic illnesses.

My understanding of disadvantage is that much of it is inherited such as social class and poverty. The stolen generation, stolen wages, the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity are more than just historical events, there are victims of these things still alive.

How can a man or woman raise children when they themselves were stolen from their parents and removed from their family? Many times, they were abused in institutions, never to see their family again.

Wages were stolen from a generation of indigenous people denying them a chance to build an economic base for their themselves and their children.

Why was Mabo such an important case?
Native land legislation is about recognising the Aboriginal people’s connection to the land and water.

Do you still encounter racism and what are we doing to keep taking steps toward bridging the gaps between all Australians?
In my life, I experienced racism, first hand, through all of it, from schoolyard bullying and fighting in primary and high school, from teachers in the classroom, police on the street to strangers on the street, and in nightclubs as a man. More recently racism is conflated online, but cannot be trivialised.

There has been a 56% increase in hospitalisation from self-harm attempts over the last decade.

‘Closing the gap’ is a government strategy that aims to reduce disadvantage in indigenous communities through initiatives such as health promotion.

Thanks for chatting to us Alf, we look forward to having you come into podcast with us to speak more in depth to help spread awareness and continue to bridge the gaps between all Australians.