Reconciliation - the next chapter

Attempts at reconciliation against the backdrop of the racially inspired Northern Territory Intervention is just another strategy for assimilation, argues Professor Patrick Dodson.

PatrickDodson IPDRUinside

Professor Dodson has told a national conference that young Indigenous people see reconciliation in the shadow of the Northern Territory Intervention as just another strategy for assimilation.

The founding director of UNSW's Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Research Unit (IPDRU) gave a keynote address at the inaugural National Indigenous Policy and Dialogue conference last week.

In a powerfully worded speech, Professor Dodson said that against the backdrop of the suspension of Aboriginal people's basic rights, "any notion of reconciled peoples is a farcical concept".

"The strategy for assimilation of our peoples is not a mistake made by low-level bureaucrats on behalf of successive governments who didn't know better," he said. "It was and continues to be a deliberate act
orchestrated at the highest levels in our society, and no amount of moral posturing can hide that reality."

Professor Dodson emphasised that solutions to the problems facing Indigenous people should not be left to governments to resolve, but instead all Australians should contribute to the conversation.

He welcomed the Gillard government's recent announcement that there will be a process of consultation in the lead up to a referendum for constitutional recognition of Indigenous peoples.

"If this process is done with an open heart and recognition that this is a matter of justice, not special benefit, then what the Prime Minister has described as a once-in-a-fifty-year opportunity can become the first page in the promised next chapter of new history of this great nation," Professor Dodson said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, opened the conference hosted by the IPDRU, which covered topics including; governance, the colonial legacy, working across cultures and Indigenous health and wellbeing.

Other keynotes were presented by Professor Joe Kalt from the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor Kiera Ladner, University of Manitoba.

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