National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is held from 27 May-3 June each year. The week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements. It is an opportunity to examine how we can contribute to broader reconciliation across Australia.
The meaning behind NRW and that significant milestones in Australia’s reconciliation history that shape it, help us understand the need for a shared understanding, awareness and respectful relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and non-Indigenous Australians.
NRW started as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation in 1993. Over the next three years, these celebrations evolved and to take shape as the National Reconciliation Week we know today.
QUT Library has resources to help you learn more about NRW and the significance of the dates.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that some of the resources recommended below may contain images, voices and names of people who have died.
May 26: Sorry Day
This day offers the Australian community the opportunity to acknowledge the impact of the policies of forcible removal on Australia’s Indigenous peoples, to express their sorrow, and to celebrate the beginning of a new understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.
Learn more about the Stolen Generations with these suggested resources
- Reconciliation Australia’s Sorry Day fact sheet
- Orphaned by the Colour of My Skin: A Stolen Generation Story, Mary Terszac (QUT resource)
- Alice’s daughter: lost mission child, Rhonda Collard-Spratt with Jacki Ferro (QUT resource)
- Stolen Generations Testimonies, a collection of testimonies collated by Melanie Hogan
- Stolen Generations, a 52-minute feature film by Darlene Johnson and Tom Zubrycki (QUT resource)
27 May: Anniversary of the 1967 referendum
The referendum of 27 May 1967 approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. The amendments were overwhelmingly endorsed, winning over 90 per cent of voters and carrying in all six states.
One amendment allowed the Commonwealth Government to make laws for Indigenous Australians. The other enabled Indigenous people to be counted in population statistics.
Learn more about the 1967 referendum with these suggested resources
- Reconciliation Australia’s 1967 Referendum fact sheet
- Creative Spirits – Australian 1967 referendum
- 1967 Referendum Race, Power and the Australian Constitution, Bain Attwood and Andrew Marcus (QUT resource)
- A fair go – Winning the 1967 referendum, a 57-minute documentary by Pat Laughren (QUT resource)
June 3: Anniversary of the Mabo decision
On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its landmark Mabo decision, a huge boost to the struggle for the recognition of Aboriginal land rights.
Put simply, the decision said that under Australian law, Indigenous people have rights to land—rights that existed before colonisation, and that still exist. This right is called native title.
By a majority of six to one, the High Court ruled that native title to land is recognised by the common law of Australia, throwing out forever the legal fiction that when Australia was “discovered” by Captain Cook in 1788 it was “terra nullius”—an empty or uncivilised land.
Indigenous people continue to fight for their native title for land and sea rights today.
Find out more about Native Title with these suggested resources
- Reconciliation Australia’s Mabo Decision fact sheet
- Edward Koiki Mabo: his life and struggle for land rights, Noel Loos and Edward Mabo (QUT resource)
- Mabo v Queensland, the High Court of Australia landmark case that overturned the false claim of terra nullius.
- Mabo, 104-minute docudrama by Rachel Perkins about Eddie Mabo’s fight to bring about native land title legislation. (QUT resource)
At QUT we are committed to fostering reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. As an institution, our community partnerships and strengthening of existing relationships reaffirm our commitment to creating better education, health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We also acknowledge the part that individuals within the QUT community play in fostering understanding and respectful relationships.