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Melbourne Marches For Reconciliation

Hundreds of thousands of people marched for Reconciliation with Aborigines in Melbourne today.

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Commencing at 8am, marchers left Flinders Street station and walked down St. Kilda Road, past the Shrine of Remembrance and onto the Domain. The last marchers left around 11am.

The march was the Melbourne equivalent of the well-attended Sydney event earlier this year when similar numbers walked across the Harbour bridge.

Many Labor, Democrat and Green politicians were in attendance, as were a small number of Liberals, notably Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, Health Minister Michael Wooldridge and former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser.

A similar march was held in Perth, attended by Liberal Premier Richard Court. In both cities, the turnout suggests widespread support for reconciliation and a national apology to Aboriginal people.

Corroboree 2000


Mabo Anniversary Amid Reconciliation Controversy

The eighth anniversary of the High Court’s judgement in the Mabo case occurs this Saturday and is the culmination of National Reconciliation Week activities throughout Australia.

FlagThe Mabo judgement overthrew the legal notion of “terra nullius”, the concept that the Australian continent was an empty land belonging to no-one which was acquired by the British in the eighteenth century.

The court ruled that a form of native title exists in the Australian common law that reflects the entitlement of the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, in accordance with their laws and customs, to their traditional lands.

The court also ruled that native title is extinguished by valid government acts that are inconsistent with the continued existence of native title rights and interests, such as the grant of freehold or leasehold estates.

The case led to the passage of the Native Title Act in 1993 and the establishment of the Native Title Tribunal to rule on Aboriginal land claims.

The act was amended in 1998 after a fierce debate following the High Court’s 1996 Wik judgement. This decision followed confusion over the competing claims of Aborigines and pastoral leaseholders. The court held that native title and pastoral leasehold rights could co-exist, but that leasehold rights prevail in the event of conflict.

The debate over native title has occurred in the context of ongoing discussion about the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children, particularly since the release of the report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Bringing Them Home.

Recent years have seen a growing social movement devoted to the issuing of a formal national apology to the Stolen Generations. There have also been calls for a formal treaty with the Aboriginal people.


The Speech Howard Should Have Made

As media criticism of Prime Minister John Howard over his refusal to attend Sunday’s Reconciliation Week walk in Sydney gathered pace today, it is interesting to compare the speech he made on Saturday to Corroboree 2000 with the speech given by Sir William Deane.

DeaneThe Governor-General’s speech contrasts sharply with what the Sydney Morning Herald called the “mean spritedness” and the “deadly sameness” of the “narrow, destructive course” followed by Howard

In his speech, Deane said: “Looking back, the starting point must be an acknowledgment of facts and truths which are now too well established or obvious to be denied. The dispossession and oppression of the Aboriginal peoples of this country over most of the years of non-indigenous settlement constitute, as Justice Gaudron and I said in a case called Mabo, the darkest aspect of the history of our nation.”

Later, after listing some positive milestones for Aborigines, such as the High Court’s 1992 Mabo judgement, the Governor-General said: “Even more important than the specific milestones that I have mentioned has been the ever-increasing grass roots awareness of the importance of both national reconciliation and the battle to overcome entrenched Aboriginal disadvantage. In the years that I have been Governor-General, Helen and I have been privileged to be part of countless unforgettable instances of reconciliation at the personal level in all parts of Australia. They have done much to shape the three thoughts about reconciliation which I wish to share with you as we stand at this crossroads and look to the future.”


250,000 Walk For Reconciliation Week

A quarter of a million Australians today walked across Sydney Harbour bridge as part of the fifth annual National Reconciliaton Week.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Dubbed Corroboree 2000, the event saw three federal government ministers, Philip Ruddock, Senator John Herron and Joe Hockey, join the marchers.

Prime Minister John Howard did not attend. Earlier, a Cabinet decision banning other ministers from attending was leaked.

Treasurer Peter Costello declined to join the march after news of the ban leaked out. [Read more…]


Howard Heckled During Corroboree 2000 Speech

Prime Minister John Howard was jeered and heckled today as he addressed Corroboree 2000 at the Sydney Opera House.

His speech was barely audible at times as delegates interjected. Many turned their backs on him as he spoke and there were frequent cries of “shame”. Howard was again implored to say sorry to the stolen generations. [Read more…]


Text of the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation

Text of the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation launched at Corroboree 2000.

Australian Declaration Toward Reconciliation.

We, the peoples of Australia, of many origins as we are, make a commitment to go on together in a spirit of reconciliation.

We value the unique status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original owners and custodians of lands and waters. [Read more…]


John Howard’s Address to Corroboree 2000: ‘Towards Reconciliation’

This is the text of the speech John Howard made today to Corroboree 2000, the opening ceremony for Reconciliation Week.

During the speech, Howard was heckled and many delegates turned their backs on him.

Text of Prime Minister John Howard’s speech to Corroboree 2000.

HowardFirst may I acknowledge that I speak to you on the traditional lands of the Eora people. I pay my respects to them and thank them for the warmth of their welcome. To the many distinguished guests here today, Your Excellencies, State Premiers, Chief Ministers, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, the Leader of the Australian Democrats, to Evelyn Scott and Geoff Clarke.

I think all of us, whatever perspective we bring to this very special and moving occasion, I think all of us recognise the debt we owe to the tremendously hard work of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation over the last ten years. And may I specially pay a personal, and I am sure a representative tribute to you Evelyn for the grace and the dignity and the leadership and the strength of character that you have brought to this very important position. [Read more…]