By Colin Tatz
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It appeals as a sane approach, ethical and moral. It offers hope, harmony and ‘humane-ness’. It suggests an end to enmity and a settling of differences. Reconciliation is, however, never defined: it is simply parroted, leaving ambiguous assumptions and a struggle to discern meaning or purpose. Reconciliation began as a nonAboriginal concept at the start of the 1990s, conceived by Robert Tickner (then Labor’s Aboriginal Affairs minister). It was to be a ten-year program aimed at improving race relations through an increased understanding of Aboriginal and Islander culture and history, and then through an appreciation of the causes of continued Aboriginal disadvantage in health, housing, education and employment.
A most telling example of these realities is the Australian (Rules) football team, the Rovers, which won the Far West premiership in Ceduna, South Australia, in 1958. By 1987, less than 30 years later, all but one of the 18 young men were dead, reaching neither 50 nor 55. At the Booroongen Djugun Aboriginal Corporation, which operates a nursing home and community care centre near Kempsey, Aboriginal persons are defined, for the purpose of aged care, as 42 if male and 53 if female. In Narooma, the Koorie Aged Care facility admits anyone over 45.
The stolen generations The forcible removal of the children known as the ‘stolen generations’ has caused a great deal of unease, frustration and anger in both Aboriginal and mainstream societies. My research overlapped with the inquiry into the ‘Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from Their Families’ and the publication of its report, Bringing Them Home (HREOC 1997). Of the 120 judicial inquiries, parliamentary committee reports and royal commissions into aspects of Aboriginal affairs in the twentieth century, this is by far the starkest and strongest indictment.
Aboriginal Suicide Is Different: A Portrait of Life and Self-Destruction by Colin Tatz