27 May 2021
National Reconciliation Week runs from 27 May to 3 June. This year's theme is 'More than a word: reconciliation takes action'.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations are already taking strong and decisive actions towards justice and equity – but reconciliation can’t be achieved until non-Indigenous Australians take action by getting behind us.
The National Reconciliation Week website suggests 20 actions for reconciliation – these are things that every non-Indigenous person can do to support their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends, neighbours and co-workers.
As the country’s first Aboriginal legal service, below we’ve suggested our own actions for each day of National Reconciliation Week. Each of these are focused on law and justice.
Please get involved and share what you learn in conversations with your friends and family, and on social media with the hashtag #NRW2021.
Thursday 27 May: Help us #RaiseTheAge
Everyone knows that children do best when they are supported, nurtured and loved.
But across Australia, children as young as 10 can be arrested by police, charged with an offence, hauled before a court and locked away in a prison.
It’s time for federal, state and territory governments to do what’s right and change the laws to raise the age of legal responsibility, so children as young as 10 can’t be sent to prison.
Kids belong in classrooms and playgrounds, not in handcuffs, courtrooms or prison cells.
→ Visit raisetheage.org.au to learn about this issue and sign the petition.
Friday 28 May: Visit The Guardian’s Deaths Inside database
In collaboration with NATSILS (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services), The Guardian has tracked every known Indigenous death in custody in every state and territory since 2008.
Comprehensive data on deaths in custody is hard to find, so The Guardian’s work on this interactive database is hugely important. You can browse the publicly available details on each person whose life has been tragically lost and access news stories on their deaths.
→ Visit the database and spend some time honouring the memories of people who have died in prisons and police custody.
Saturday 29 May: Learn about justice reinvestment
Have you heard of justice reinvestment? It’s the concept of taking some of the money we spend every day on prisons and ‘reinvesting’ it into communities.
By investing in the resources that make our communities better places to live – stuff like education, housing, childcare, community groups – we can improve people’s lives and stop them from coming into contact with the legal system in the first place.
That’s a much better solution than funnelling billions of public dollars into prisons, which are proven to entrench disadvantage rather than helping people.
→ Visit the Just Reinvest website to learn how justice reinvestment can change lives and save money. Watch the video below to see how it’s already working in Bourke, NSW.
Sunday 30 May: Read Bringing Them Home
The Bringing Them Home report was published in 1997, after a huge national inquiry into the experiences of the Stolen Generations.
More than 20 years later, the report remains just as powerful as ever. It contains personal testimony from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were taken from their families; some of them managed to reunite later in life, but many never did. Sadly, the lessons of Bringing Them Home remain relevant today because many of its recommendations were never implemented by government.
Some people say the Stolen Generations never ended. In 2021, Australian authorities remove Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families at 11 times the rate of non-Indigenous children.
→ Access the Bringing Them Home report online and read the stories of Stolen Generations members.
Monday 31 May: Sign our petition to stop strip-searching Aboriginal kids
In 2019-20, NSW Police strip-searched 96 children. About 21% of those kids were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
Forcing a child to remove their clothes is deeply intrusive, disempowering and humiliating. It is unjust, it violates children’s rights, and it undermines the relationship that police have with children.
In most cases, these searches result in a “no-find” – yet the child is left with lasting trauma and distrust.
→ Sign our petition to demand police stop strip-searching Aboriginal children.
Tuesday 1 June: Email your MP to stop deaths in custody
Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, at least 475 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in police and prison cells, or after interactions with police. Many of those Royal Commission recommendations are still not implemented.
State and Territory MPs have the power to change the laws that push Aboriginal people, including children, into prisons. They can implement the recommendations, independent oversight and accountability that could save lives.
That's why it is so powerful to write to your local MP and demand action. Change the Record have provided a useful template that enables you to email your MP in just a few clicks.
Wednesday 2 June: Donate to the ALS
By giving to the ALS, you can ‘pay the rent’ and provide effective legal support for Aboriginal people.
Support from allies in the community empowers us to set our own agenda, speaking out fearlessly for Aboriginal rights and creating Aboriginal-led solutions to free our people from the legal system.
Government funds come with rules and red tape, but community donations come with the promise of self-determination. As an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation and a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, you can trust that we’ll use your donation to the genuine benefit of the community.
Thursday 3 June: Consider what comes next
It’s not enough to only support justice for Aboriginal peoples during Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week or other days of importance.
How will you keep up your commitment to justice? Will it be through staying informed via Aboriginal news sources like IndigenousX, National Indigenous Times, NITV or Koori Mail? Will you tackle the hard conversations with your friends and family, busting racist stereotypes whenever and wherever you encounter them? Maybe you’ll call on your political representatives to support people, not prisons. You could sign up for a recurring monthly donation to the ALS, helping us fight for our rights over the long term. Or you could speak with your workplace about setting up a corporate donation or regular giving program to benefit the ALS or another Aboriginal community-controlled organisation.
There are many ways to contribute to a fairer future. Take the initiative to become an ongoing ally.