Daring to speak the truth: de-constructing and re-constructing reconciliation

Gabrielle Russell-Mundine, Graeme Mundine


Reconciliation has been on the political agenda in Australia since the early 1990s and is now planted firmly in the public conscience. Australia celebrates reconciliation every year; political leaders talk often about reconciliation; schools teach reconciliation. Yet, if you take as performance indicators the gap in life expectancy, or the increasingly disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison, one has to question whether Australia is walking further away from the work that is needed to heal and achieve true reconciliation. In this paper we will draw on our experiences of working within church and education contexts and critically engage with the challenges and limitations of reconciliation as we have encountered them. We suggest that it is necessary to talk about reconciliation in terms of a human rights agenda and make explicit the connections between reconciliation and policy and practices. As Lowitja O’Donoghue has said, “we must accept the truth of our history – it is the truth that will set us free”. But how do we dare to speak the truth when the dominant political discourse focuses on the perceived success of reconciliation?


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