22 May 2023
We’re coming up to National Reconciliation Week 2023.
Every year, NRW runs from May 27 to June 3, bookended by the anniversary of the 1967 referendum to amend the Australian Constitution and the 1992 High Court decision to overturn the legal doctrine of ‘terra nullius’.
National Reconciliation Week represents an opportunity to learn about, reflect upon and strengthen respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider Australian community.
The theme for NRW 2023 is “Be a Voice for Generations”, encouraging all Australians to speak up for a just and equitable Australia and to “raise our voices for the future” with actions in every day life. I would encourage anyone to have a look at the events available and find something to engage with.
After attending a cultural tour on Ngarrindjeri country over the weekend, I reflected on my own place within reconciliation, within practice, and within Country. I won’t share the stories that formed the conversation, they’re not mine to tell, but the experience reinforced some related ideas that were also explored as part of last year’s COUNTRY Festival.
The first is that we’re all a small part of something bigger. Not only within in our community, not only practicing in landscape and on Country, but also in the timeline of the reconciliation journey.
"We get to plant the seed, others will water the seed, so that others will stand under it."
The second is that when we care for, and care about, something small, it contributes to the health of the whole.
When we sow seeds and take responsibility for tending the plants that grow, we contribute to the health of the environment by providing shelter, shade, food or habitat for animals, insects, birds, and humans (or any other number of outputs). If each of us works to ensure the success of one plant, one animal, one small part of the landscape, then the whole flourishes.
The overlapping theme of these two ideas is that small actions are important.
We will not solve generations of trauma and displacement, cultural upheaval, change and challenge within this year, this decade, or this generation. Nor will one person alone be the solitary hero of the reconciliation movement. This is not a pessimistic statement, nor should it be disheartening to those that want to see, and create, change. It’s merely a reflection of an interconnected community and ongoing journey.
It’s also a kind of call to action: don’t be disheartened because you can’t do everything - do one small, good thing; do whatever you can; and it will contribute to the larger journey. Find what you are interested in, have one small conversation, take responsibility for one small part, and you can be a positive force for others.
We are all metaphorically (and, as landscape architects, literally) planting the seeds that we want to flourish. So, focus your energy on that which you want to change, plant the seeds you want to grow, use your expertise and your passion to make a positive difference, and build on the foundations of the past to make change possible in the future.
Even a small voice combines with a larger community to create a clamouring chorus, all resolutely calling for progress. Every seed planted has potential to grow, and every voice is important in a choir.
Some Links and Resources:
For events relating to National Reconciliation Week: https://nrw.reconciliation.org.au/calendar/
The Ngartji System (Courtesy of Kool Tours and much more eloquently explained than my version here): https://kooltours.com.au/ngartji-system/
Aboriginal Way Newspaper: https://www.nativetitlesa.org/aboriginal-way-newspaper/
International Indigenous Design Charter: https://www.theicod.org/storage/app/media/resources/International_IDC_book_small_web.pdf
Parlour Deadly Djurumin Yarns: https://parlour.org.au/parlour-live/deadly-djurumin-yarns/
The Connection to Country Committee is working towards the Developing Reconciliation Principles for Small Practices Workshop and will provide further updates when the date is confirmed.
May 26: National Sorry Day
May 27 – June 3: National Reconciliation Week
June 30: AILA SA 2023 Awards Ceremony
October 19-22: 2023 Festival of Landscape Architecture: UN/EARTH Tarntanya/Adelaide
AILA SA Connection to Country Committee Member