The Australian Reconciliation Convention will be held in Melbourne in May 1997. Extraordinary attacks are being directed at the Reconciliation process from all sectors of the Australian community. Representatives from several of Sydney's lesbian and gay community organisations met recently to discuss the Aboriginal Reconciliation process. We agreed that it was time for us to issue a statement in support of the Reconciliation process to present to the Reconciliation Convention. This statement is intended to be the beginning of a wider debate about the Reconciliation process in the lesbian and gay community.
Statement of Support
We affirm the essential nature of the Reconciliation process to the development of a truly civil society in Australia, which values diversity and the contribution of all its citizens,both now and into the future.
We are proud to live in a nation with the oldest indigenous peoples in the world. We believe that non-indigenous Australians have a great deal to gain from Reconciliation by coming to terms with our collective past and valuing Aboriginal culture and history.
We acknowledge the graciousness and patience shown by Aboriginal people and we seek to further Reconciliation by playing an active role in the process both within our own and the wider communities.
We believe that Reconciliation is everyone's responsibility. True Reconciliation will not be achieved through a one-sided process in which indigenous people are expected to give way to others' interests and give up their rights in the interests of national 'harmony'. Non-indigenous Australians must acknowledge that Aboriginal people's human rights have been systematically eroded over the last 200 years.
We believe that genuine Reconciliation will only be achieved when we acknowledge the truth about the often brutal nature of European settlement, acknowledge that it was an invasion resulting in the dispossession of Aboriginal people. This dispossession continues today through discrimination, disinheritance and the devastation resulting from past assimilation policies.
We must be prepared to listen to Aboriginal people's points of view. We must recognise the special relationship that indigenous Australians have to the land; their grief occasioned by theft of their land and forced removals from their families. We must acknowledge the central nature of land rights to Aboriginal people's self-esteem.
We oppose any explicit or implicit extinguishment of native title and the removal of the right to negotiate on land use. This is a form of discrimination against Aboriginal people: it removes rights from them which will continue to be held by all other title-holders.
We believe that human rights are inalienable and indivisible and that the human rights of all Australians must be protected from extinguishment for reasons of convenience or certainty.
We oppose any watering down of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The Australia Day national holiday falls on 26 January, commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet and the beginnings of colonisation and dispossession. It is an impediment to the realisation of Reconciliation because Aboriginal people are excluded from celebrating national unity with other Australians. We believe that the holiday should be moved to another day of the year.
What has all this got to do with the lesbian and gay community? Lesbians and gay men have been, and continue to be, on the receiving end of hatred and discrimination. We oppose all forms of bigotry and injustice and recognise the connections between them. Racism and the Reconciliation process are very much our business as there are gays and lesbians in all sectors of the community and all population groups, including the indigenous community.
We acknowledge that racism exists within the lesbian and gay community and that indigenous gays and lesbians often feel alienated and unsupported by our community.
We intend to work actively to change this by addressing Aboriginal issues and promoting indigenous visibility and leadership, by fostering debate and by developing Reconciliation strategies and responses within the lesbian and gay community.
Coordinator, Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project
Stevie Clayton, Simon Lloyd
Co-Convenors, Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
Lynne O'Brien, Stephen Auburn
Co-Presidents, PRIDE - Sydney Lesbian and Gay Community Centre
Coordinator, 2010 Lesbian and Gay Youth Services
credits Paul Canning