Reconciliation Week, observed annually from May 27 to June 3 in Australia, promotes understanding, accountability, and repair between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader Australian community.

This year’s theme is “Now more than ever.” The week commemorates two key events: the 1967 referendum to include First Peoples in the census and the High Court Mabo decision recognising the continual connection to Country. While these milestones represent progress, reconciliation needs re-framing, which is Land Back.

Genuine reconciliation involves providing ways to build relational integrity, represented by the following four building blocks of repair:

Building Blocks of repair

  1. Reckoning: Learning about past and ongoing harm
  • Education: Formal and informal learning
  • Truth-telling: Respectful listening
  • Leadership: Speaking up and taking action
  • Self-reflection: Recognising one’s privilege and position
  1. Acknowledgement: Admitting that harm has occurred and continues
  • Public acknowledgement, apology and recognition
  1. Accountability: Taking responsibility for past harm and committing to non-repetition
  • Supporting self-determination, and funding initiatives related to land, language, kinship, food, housing, and water
  • Building community assets and infrastructure
  1. Redress/Restitution: Using resources for healing, ensuring racial justice for First Nations.
  • Sharing wealth to support justice and equity
  • Amplifying and uplifting First Nations-led justice and healing projects

The cycle of repair: The Land Back Foundation.

Since the arrival of the first boats, First Nations peoples have been fighting for their land back. Dispossession of lands has been central to the oppression of First Nations, causing damage to Country, kinship, culture, education, and language systems. Colonial structures were designed to support economic exploitation of the land.

In 1988, Dr Yunupingu and Wenten Rubuntja presented the Barunga Statement to Prime Minister Hawke, calling for a treaty. The Hawke government promised a treaty by 1990 but replaced treaty discussions with the concept of reconciliation, treaty is a promise unfulfilled.

The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR) was established in 1991 to promote reconciliation. However, the Howard government, starting in 1996, abolished key Aboriginal organisations, defunded others, and instigated the Northern Territory intervention, Prime Minister John Howard refused to apologise to First Nations in Parliament.

In 2008, Prime Minister Rudd delivered the ‘Sorry Speech’ in Parliament, which, though significant, fell short of the three steps of an apology: 1. recognition, 2. remorse, and 3. repair. Most recently, the Uluru Statement called for a “First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution” and a “Makarrata Commission” for agreement-making and truth-telling. The referendum to enshrine a Voice to Parliament was rejected, and the government did not allocate funds in the budget to further this commitment.

The Land Back movement emphasises the restoration of lands to First Nations peoples, acknowledging land as central to their identity, culture, and well-being. As individuals, we can support the movement by donating to charities that support the buying back of land and housing.

Repair is a continuous process requiring genuine, sustained effort beyond symbolic gestures, ensuring actions that lead to tangible change and justice for First Nations people. Land Back is a global movement that provides practical, tangible, impactful change by re-distributing wealth and power. Land Back is repair. We need this, now more than ever.