CEO of Reconciliation Australia, Justin Mohamed, writes for Mamamia…
Reconciliation Australia’s vision is for everyone to wake to a just, equitable and reconciled Australia. Last week after watching and listening to the stories surrounding Adam Goodes unfold, it appeared to me that this goal was well out of our reach. But I was wrong.
As Adam Goodes chose to take himself out of the spotlight, the need to speak out about what had happened, and the ongoing impact that this could have for First Australians grew in urgency.
Unfortunately, I know first-hand what racism is and what it feels like. Last week I listened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders recall stories of the old days, when they and their families were treated as second class citizens. What I thought about the Goodes situation, was part of our history had been drop-kicked into our present. Like many Aboriginal people around the country, I disappointed and spurred into action. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people wanted to reach out to Adam, give him a pat on the back and let him know that somehow, we would get through it. But what gave me heart was that we weren’t alone.
People all across the nation wanted to take action and looked for ways to show their support.
By Wednesday last week, Richmond Football Club had demonstrated its leadership in reconciliation. As a club, they had made the decision to wear their 2015 Indigenous Round guernsey in the clash against Hawthorn. Shortly after this announcement, Western Bulldogs did the same thing. Players, managers and coaches from across the league came out in a strong sign of support for Goodes. Melbourne Demons players taped the three colours of the Aboriginal flag around their forearms – a simple yet very symbolic show of support.
See some of the powerful I Stand With Adam images. (Post continues after gallery.)
Eight AFL clubs have Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) and we are proud of the leadership the league has shown towards reconciliation in Australia. RAPs have proven an effective means for all sectors of the Australian community to contribute to reconciliation and the leadership of the AFL in this regard is just one example of the change happening through RAPs across the corporate, government and community sectors.
It wasn’t just the AFL community that responded in support of Adam. People stopped cities with flash mobs, children across the country took out their markers and wrote Goodes’ number 37 on their upper arms and people started conversations about the far reaching issues around the dinner table. Reconciliation Australia also joined with other not for profit organsiations and some of the countries corporate leaders to voice their support for Goodes in a joint statement.
Have you seen the incredible flash mob in Federation Square campaigning for Adam Goodes. (Post continues after video.)
At the annual Garma Festival, hosted by the Yolngu people in North East Arnhem Land, like other attendees, I was surprised and filled with pride to see the Gumatj men and boys to painted up and ready to dance in support of Goodes. They had painted the red and white ‘V’ from the Swans guernsey on their chests and the number 37 on their backs. Social media was flooded with the hashtags #IStandWithAdam and #AFLMANYCOLOURS and Adam Goodes was trending for days.
Last week was a moment when Australians showed what the spirit of reconciliation is. This is what our nation should be proud of. The display of culture, the sharing of knowledge, the respect of our diversity is what we should all be embracing.
To me, this is really what reconciliation is about. It is time, that as a nation, we changed our thinking. An Aboriginal man displaying the oldest continuing culture in the world, that is shared by a nation made up of hundreds of nationalities, should be celebrated. We must call out racism wherever and whenever we see it. What we stay silent on as a nation is the standard we accept. It will only be by calling racism out, by educating people on racism and its effects, that will we be able to truly call ourselves the country of the fair go.
The issues faced by Australians over the past couple of weeks are not simple. I doubt very much that they are over. In fact, I believe this is a conversation we need to continue as a nation. But we can now firmly say that we, all Australians, are in a position, as a community to move beyond the them and us. To come together, share and truly understand our past and celebrate the world’s oldest living culture as our own.
It only when we do this, that we will be able to call ourselves a just, equitable and reconciled Australia.
How do you think we can become an equitable and reconciled Australia?
For more on Adam Goodes, you can read…