National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is celebrated throughout Australia from May 27-June 3 to honor the rich cultural heritage of the Indigenous Australians (also called Aborigines, although that term is becoming less popular). The celebration began with faith-based groups in 1993 as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation, and was expanded to the current nationally recognized celebration in 1996. NRW coincides with two significant dates in Australia’s history which relate to the native people of Australia. May 27 is the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, in which parts of the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Indigenous Australians were deleted, and June 3 is the date in 1992 which recognized the Native Title rights of the indigenous people as the original inhabitants of Australia.
This continent-wide cultural celebration is similar to the recognition and celebration of Native American culture and traditions in the United States, although there is not a national day or week set aside for formal recognition as Australia does. In the US, especially in areas where there are large concentrations of native peoples (the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma, the “land of the Red Man,” comes to mind), many local and regional Native American festivals are held annually.
I have always been fascinated by indigenous cultures and traditions, and am delighted to see that Australia has embraced and honored their native peoples with an annual week of celebration and recognition. Hopefully, this celebration will continue to shine a light on the valuable and sometimes fragile nature of the culture of the First Australians, and keep their welfare in the public eye for the preservation of their traditions and heritage well into the future.
Check it out:
Australian Dreaming: 40,000 years of Aboriginal History. The first Aboriginal history of the Australian continent and its people, as told by Aboriginal storytellers. It recounts epic travels of the Great Spirit Ancestors and tells how they created the animals and plants and gave birth to the earliest people of this land.
Elders: Wisdom from Australia’s Indigenous Leaders. This book chronicles the wisdom of Indigenous peoples and their traditional and contemporary ways of living. A series of chapters authored by tribal elders from various parts of Australia is supplemented by the author’s visually stunning photography.