• Cheek

What the F is: Reconciliation

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

A quick definition

Reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians.

“… A reconciled Australia is one where our rights as First Australians are not just respected but championed in all the places that matter …”

Kirstie Parker – Board Member, Reconciliation Australia

Photo from Reconciliation Australia

Tell me more

Reconciliation is about ensuring Indigenous Australians have a life that is the same length and quality of non-Indigenous Australians. Reconciliation is multi-faceted and requires governments, businesses, and the community to work together to create change and an equitable future. The leading body for reconciliation in Australia (aptly named Reconciliation Australia) has set out five dimensions and correlating goals which, when achieved, will produce a reconciled Australia.

Race relations

Overcoming racism in Australia by ensuring all Australians understand and value Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures, rights, and experiences.

Equality and equity

Creating space and opportunity for all Indigenous peoples to participate equally in opportunities and rights afforded by non-Indigenous Australians.

Institutional Integrity

Having all sectors of the community, including businesses and government, support reconciliation.


Having Indigenous history as a valued and recognised part of Australian history and identity.

Historical Acceptance

Ensuring widespread acceptance of past wrongdoing toward Indigenous Australians and preventing similar events from happening in the future.

Photo from National Museum of Australia

What does a reconciled Australia look like?

A reconciled Australia is an equal place for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. In many cases, an equal society requires a fight for equity, not equality. This means that marginalised or oppressed groups should gain access to ‘extra’ support for society. The perfect example of practicing equity is hiring quotas, which we have seen increasingly often in workplaces. Indigenous causes like concentrated health care, grant, loan, and scholarship programs, and access to business development assistance are a few things we should see in a reconciled Australia. Many of these programs and systems already exist, however there are still many gaps to be filled. A reconciled Australia would see a fair and accurate account of Australian history taught in the national curriculum, which has been written by or in consultation with First Nations peoples. A reconciled Australia would see Indigenous and non-Indigenous people treated the same under the law, and mean all Australians, including governments, viewing Aboriginal and Torres Strait culture as a part of the nation's shared identity.

What progress have we made?

It’s easy to look around and say we’ve made little to no progress when it comes to social issues, but in the fight for progress, we at Cheek believe in reflecting on how far we’ve come. We believe looking back at how much progress has been made already helps activists push forward. Appreciating past progress does not mean we cease pushing for more, and pushing for progress does not mean ignoring past progress.

In 1996, the first Reconciliation Week was recognised and celebrated, beginning to bring attention to the issue of reconciliation in Australia. In the same year, the High Court determined that statutory leases (meaning a 30 year lease) does not extinguish native title rights.

In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an apology to the Stolen Generations, a first for Australia. At the same time, the Council of Australian Governments commits $4.6 billion to ‘closing the gap’ in terms of health, housing, early childhood development, and economic participation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people

In the 2019 Reconciliation Action Plan report, just 50% of survey Australians reported feeling as though the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is important. In the 2021 report, this number rose to 91%. This could indicate that the issue comes down to ignorance and a lack of education rather than active intolerance. Over the past three years, any Australian will tell you that Indigenous issues and the true history of Australia has been further to the forefront than ever before.

Read the full 2021 State of Reconciliation summary report here.

How do we achieve it?

While progress has been made, there is still a ways to go until we achieve reconciliation in Australia. Businesses and governments can directly contribute to reconciliation by creating their own Reconciliation Action Plan and working with Reconciliation Australia. Reconciliation requires a shared goal between citizens, governments, and organisations. Individuals can also get involved by actively learning and participating. Here are a few ways you can do so:

  • Vote for a party that supports reconciliation

  • Spend time researching and consuming educational content about and by Indigenous Australians (make sure to check your sources!)

  • Attend Indigenous events and rallies that are open to the public

  • Become familiar with the Indigenous land you live and work on and its history

  • Donate to and support Indigenous causes

For a list of recommended resources (great as a starting point), click here.

Main source and recommended reading: www.reconciliation.org.au