Out and about for National Reconciliation Week

Gubur Dharura.PNG

National Reconciliation Week in May is a great time for families – and school communities – to explore and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and achievements. There are many ways to be involved.

What is National Reconciliation Week?

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements and to explore how each of us can contribute to reconciliation. It is a great time to reflect on the achievements so far and what must still be done to achieve reconciliation.

NRW is held from 27 May to 3 June, the dates of two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey — the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision. Each year, the week has a different theme. The 2023 theme is Be a Voice for Generations, encouraging all Australians to be a voice for reconciliation in tangible ways in our everyday lives – where we live, work and socialise.

Below, we have great ideas for families, and for P&Cs to get involved.

Get your family involved

In the ACT, Reconciliation Day, in NRW, is a public holiday – May 29 in 2023. There are some great events and activities mark the occasion.

There's a family day out at the National Arboretum with language workshops, arts, crafts and storytelling, live entertainment, plus stalls and exhibitions. Other events:

It's also a great time for your familiy to visit one of Canberra’s cultural or information sites (see below), or for P&Cs to start something new in their community (Skip to Ideas for P&Cs).

Make a visit

The ACT region is rich with cultural sites (more than 3,500 Aboriginal heritage sites) which your family can enjoy and learn from.

The Ngunnawal people, as Traditional Custodians of the Canberra region, have a continuing sense of responsibility to preserve the spirit and stories of their ancestors throughout the landscape. Neighbouring nations including the Ngarigo, Wolgalu, Gundungurra, Yuin and Wiradjuri people, also gathered here for ceremony, marriage, trade, seasonal foods and lore.

A good place to appreciate this is Tidbinbilla(from the Ngunnawal 'Jedbinbilla' meaning a place where boys were made men). You can join an Aboriginal Ranger for a guided activity, examine displays at the visitor centre or take the easy one hour loop walk to Birrigai rock shelter where people have sheltered and practiced culture for over 21,000 years. A ranger suggests you call to his ancestors as you approach.

Namadgi National Park is home to an important rock art site at Yankee Hat.

While Tidbinbilla and Namadgi are the obvious places to explore local Aboriginal culture, there are many other opportunities nearby.

  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Trail at the Australian National University (ANU) explores the significance of the campus area. Guide brochures for the self-guided trail are available online, from ANU libraries, or use the ANU Walks App.
  • The National Botanic Gardens’ Aboriginal Plant Use Trail is one way to learn more about and appreciate Aboriginal people’s knowledge and use of plants in Australia.
  • Canberra parks and reserves protect a range of heritage sites such as Gubur Dharura ochre ground in Diane Barwick St Franklin, Scarred trees in Langtree Cres Crace, and grinding grooves near Christmas St Theodore. At Girrawah Park in Ngunnawal (Gamburra St) learn about local stone artifacts via the Canberra tracks App. Of course, treat these areas with respect.

Ideas for P&CsNRW Ideas

NRW is a great opportunity for P&Cs or schools to host an event to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and promote understanding and reconciliation, such as the ideas below. 

Host a film or TED talk screening 

Reconciliation Australia have a list of suggested TED Talks on their website which highlight personal stories told by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sharing these is an important part of the journey towards reconciliation 

A great selection of films and documentaries from leading Indigenous filmmakers, along with support materials, is provided at the Reconciliation Film Club. The website walks you through the process of organising a screening in week by week steps and handles the licensing arrangements (modest licensing fees apply to screen the films, like all public film screenings) as well as providing discussion guides and articles to support a successful event. Hosting a film night is a great way to bring people together to develop a deeper understanding of Indigenous people’s perspectives and histories, ignite conversation and spark change.  

Start a book club! 

Reconciliation Australia highlight books (here and here) by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors to guide your selection. This is a great way to learn more and build community, while demonstrating your love of books to your kids.  

You could hold a one-off book club during NRW, or continue reading throughout the year by holding a discussion group once or twice a term. If your book club successfully runs for a year, you could vote on your favourite book and host a reading of select passages during the next NRW! 

Other ideas for celebrating the week: 
  • organise a disco featuring music from indigenous artists 
  • hold a flag raising ceremony 
  • work with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist to produce an artwork representing the theme 
  • hold an indigenous craft groups: invite local artists to teach parents weaving, basket making, painting, bark craft etc. A great way to reconnect, yarn and learn new skills!
  • invite Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander dancers to perform or artists to visit the school .

This is an updated version of an article that appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2020.