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 2020 theme is Always Was, Always Will Be, recognising that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.

Getting involved

In the ACT, Reconciliation Day, in NRW, is a public holiday – June 1 this year. Community events and activities usually mark the occasion.

With gatherings and events out of the question this year, your familiy could use the holiday to visit one of Canberra’s cultural or information sites. We’ve compiled some suggestions below.

Make a visit

The ACT region is rich with cultural sites (more than 3,500 Aboriginal heritage sites). 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 a rock art site at Yankee Hat. As an important site, considerable effort went into protecting it this fire season.

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.

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