National Reconciliation week

27 MAY TO 3 JUNE 2023

We acknowledge and celebrate the First Australians on whose traditional lands we meet and pay our respect to the elders past and present.

This year’s theme for Reconciliation Week is “Be A Voice for Generations” and the aim is to encourage Australians to promote and support being the voice of reconciliation in their everyday lives. The ARC Training Centre for Future Crops held a couple of events during this special week across the two universities in Canberra and Adelaide, on both Ngunnawal and Ngambri, and Kaurna lands, respectively.

We gathered to celebrate Reconciliation, to learn about our shared histories and cultures, to support our minority groups, and to tackle and end the discrimination and racism that are still too present in Australia [1]. It is important for our Centre to create a welcoming environment, to raise awareness and to actively seek out opportunities to build new programs for research developed with University First National Portfolios and Indigenous communities.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Australia’s colonial history is characterised by devastating land dispossession, violence, and racism. Over the last half-century, however, many significant steps towards reconciliation have been taken.

Significant events toward reconciliation:
– The 1967 Referendum abolished clauses in the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
– The 1982 Eddie Mabo Decision recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the traditional owners and custodians of Australian land and paved the way for Native Title.
– National Reconciliation Week is held every year from 27 May (Referendum) to 3 June (Mabo decision).
– 26 May National Sorry Day first held in 1988, “Bringing Them Home report” Stolen Generations.
– The 2022 Australian Reconciliation Barometer shows that mutual trust between First Nations people and other Australians is steady.

Still significant effort required for reconciliation [2]:
– 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed reported an experience of at least one form of right to prejudice in the past 6 months
– This number increased by 8% in the last 2 years, and 17% since 2018
– 57% of First Nations people believe that Australia remains a racist country, a view shared by 42% of non-Indigenous respondents.

Educating ourselves on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history where we are studying, working, living on, where we were born.

The Australian National University holds a wealth of Indigenous heritage values [3,4] that are manifested in various aspects, including the landscape, buildings, historical inhabitants and workers, significant events, and notable discoveries. Consequently, we decided to embark on a journey along a segment of the Indigenous Heritage trail, immersing ourselves in the captivating narrative of Sullivans Creek [5]. Along the way, we traversed the creek using a stone path, further enhancing our experience.

In pre-European settlement times, the Sullivans creek, originally named Canberry (or Canburry) Creek for the local Indigenous community, served as a culturally significant zone, offered abundant primary resources and fresh water source, and provided a venue for ceremonial activities. Even today, the creek retains spiritual and mythological values. Subsequently, it became an ideal location for pastoral settlement before the establishment of Canberra. Today, Sullivans Creek holds significance for the University due to its role as a biodiversity corridor, a water course, and its cultural importance. It stands as a prominent natural element on campus, appreciated for its aesthetic appeal, natural resources, and biodiversity. Ongoing ecological surveys have found that Sullivans Creek is one of two primary biodiversity corridors on the Acton campus, supporting native wildlife such as birds, possums, platypus, turtles, water rats and reptiles.

Adelaide is witnessing a growing recognition and prominence of Kaurna culture and history, evident in its public art and the use of Kaurna language and themes in place names. Within the city, notable locations are adorned with significant public artworks that celebrate and incorporate elements of Kaurna heritage. All the campuses of the University of Adelaide are situated on traditional Kaurna land: the Aboriginal sites, remains, objects and records, history and tradition are protected by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 [6].

Both universities offer excellent support and valuable resources for Indigenous students [7,8].

Want to learn what we can all do? How to respond to racism? and how to educate ourselves on Australian/Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history? Take this Check Up to find out what we are doing and what more we can do to help eliminate racism against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

[1] National Reconciliation week 2023. BE A VOICE FOR GENERATIONS. Home – National Reconciliation Week 2023

[2] Mayi Kuwayu – The National Study of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing.

[3] ANU Acton Campus Heritage Study. Acton Campus Heritage Study – Staff Services – ANU

[4] Ask First- A guide to respecting Indigenous heritage places and values. Ask First: A guide to respecting Indigenous heritage places and values (

[5] ANU Acton Campus – Site Inventory – Sullivan Creek. site-sullivans-creek-final.pdf (

[6] Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 – The University of Adelaide. Aboriginal Heritage Act 101 (

[7] Indigenous- The University of Adelaide. Indigenous | University of Adelaide

[8] Indigenous students – The Australian National University. Indigenous students – ANU