Since 1918, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) have achieved a great deal of change in both political and social ways, though it was not without struggle. Many of these achievements are derived from several events, such as the Mabo Decision which was the long battle that lead to the recognition of Aboriginal land rights. Other events also contributed, such as the long process of reconciling the relationships between ATSI peoples and Australians, the Bringing Them Home Report which helped lead to the Apology. All of these events are important in Aboriginal culture as they all inspired change in the Australian community.
The Mabo Decision was the goal to overturn the idea of Terra Nullius so that Aboriginal peoples would be recognised as the traditional owners of Murray Island, as the British had completely ignored the rights of the Aboriginals when Australia was colonised. The ‘Mer’ Islanders decided that they would be the ones to challenge the principle of Terra Nullius in a legal setting. Eddie Mabo told a speech in 1981 at James Cook University about his people’s rights and ownership, where it was overheard by a lawyer who asked Mabo if he would like to take the case to court. In 1982, the issue was taken to court but led to nowhere.
Due to that fact, in the same year the issue was escalated to being taken to the High Court of Australia. The case then ran for ten years. On June 3rd, 1992, the High Court decided that Terra Nullius should no longer be applied to Australia, which recognised that ATSI peoples had rights and connections to the land, which was a turning point in Aboriginal history, finally allowing for them to legally have rights to the land which was rightfully theirs. However, this was only the beginning for positive change for ATSI peoples. Reconciliation was about building better and much stronger relationships between ATSI people.
To do this, the Keating Government established a council for Aboriginal reconciliation in 1992, which aimed to address the issues of inequality between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians which begun when Australia became colonised in 1788. The first step to reconciliation was for non-indigenous Australians to recognise what they had done, which was outlined in the Redfern speech, spoken by Paul Keating. “And, as I say, the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with us non-Aboriginal Australians. It begins, I think, with that act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing.
We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life… Imagine if we had suffered the injustice and then were blamed for it. It seems to me that if we can imagine the injustice we can imagine its opposite. And we can have justice. ” This excerpt taken from the speech shows Keating’s dedication to the cause, which is further shown in many other actions, such as The Reconciliation Walk. The Walk was taken across Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2000, where a milestone was reached in the process of reconciliation. Over 250,000 people attended the walk, making it the largest political demonstration ever to occur in Australian history.
The attempt at reconciliation allowed for greater recognition of the existence and the rights that ATSI have and acknowledging them as the traditional and first owners of the land. (link) The Bringing Them Home Report was a document established in 1997, with 680 pages that brought light to the events that occurred in between 1910 and 1970, such as the Stolen Generation, where thousands of ATSI children were forcibly removed from their homes and brought up in a way that not only removed them of their culture but also left lasting trauma on many of the children. “This report is a tribute to the strength nd struggles of many thousands of ATSI people affected by forcible removal. We acknowledge the hardships they endured and the sacrifices they made. We remember and lament all the children who will never come home. ” This quote clearly describes the reasoning of The Bringing Them Home Report, which acknowledges the hardships that the children from the Stolen Generation and their families went through.
The document lead to a national understanding of the physical and mental trauma that many from the Stolen Generation went through, many of the effects being life-long. Why me, why was I taken? Itas like a hole in you heart that can never heal. ” (Page 177 in The Bringing Them Home Report). Using quotes like these further deepened the impact of the document. This also resulted in a national ‘Sorry Day’, a day on the 26th of May held “to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects. ” In addition to this, the Stolen Generation got reconnected with their families and later received written apologies from each state and territory and apology in the form of a speech in 2008 from the current Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.
The Apology was a speech held on the 13th of February by Kevin Rudd, where he apologised to the Stolen Generation and planned to reunite the Stolen Generation. However, the initial announcement of the apology caused a split in the Liberal party, as some believed that it would create a guilty culture in Australia. Yet, Judi Moylan, who was the former Liberal Minister, said “I think as a nation we owe an apology. We shouldn’t be thinking about it as an individual apology — it’s an apology that is coming from the nation state because it was governments that did these things. The apology was then considered necessary.
At 9:30 on the day of the speech, Kevin Rudd began the apology. “… The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future. We apologise for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
We apologise especially for the removal of ATSI children from their families, their communities and their country… We the parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation…. ” The speech was a significant moment in ATSI peoples lives, as, according the to The Bringing Them Home Report, this was the first step to healing and was largely symbolic and important in ATSI culture.
All of the events and actions mentioned helped ATSI peoples to achieve changes that made Australia a better and more ideal place for them to be living in. After all of the difficulties that they faced, such as racism and their own land being taken from them, the changes that occurred has made a significant impact on the wellbeing of ATSI people. Important changes socially and politically wise has made Australia a more welcoming and accepting country.