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Address to Australian Reconciliation Convention [virtual event]

Dhawura nguna, dhawura Ngunnawal.

Yanggu ngalawiri dhunimanyin Ngunnawalwari dhawurawari.

Nginnggada Dindi wanggiraliedjinyin.

My thanks to Aunty Yvonne Weldon for her Welcome to Country and to Uncle Matt Doyle for leading the Smoking Ceremony.

It is a privilege for me to have been asked to be part of the Australian Reconciliation Convention, a once-in-a-generation event, in this 20th anniversary year of Reconciliation Australia.

I want to thank Reconciliation Australia for its outstanding advocacy as we walk together towards reconciliation.

I encourage all of you to make time during this Convention to celebrate your successes.

This Convention is an opportunity to look objectively at how far along the path to reconciliation we are and to identify the next key steps we must take to move quicker to the end goal.

Has Australia reached reconciliation? No.

Will we? We must. It is non-negotiable.

Based on my own experiences, particularly as Governor-General, I am optimistic that we will.

Now, you might be looking at me thinking: “Well, of course, he would say all of that. He’s the Governor-General.”

Or you might be thinking: “He’s a 68-year-old white bloke. It’s easy for him to say.”

Let me tell you: I am not blindly optimistic. I know that our nation needs to do better.

But I also know the Australian people, and what I’ve seen gives rise to that optimism.

It is based on recent observations and learnings.

At a boxing gym in Redfern, a gym I have frequented many times over the years – where I’ve witnessed firsthand not only the potential of young Indigenous men and women but what can be achieved through listening, respect and kindness … particularly by listening.

Through organisations that I am involved with like the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and the Indigenous Australian Engineering School – where young Indigenous Australians are transforming their lives through education, bravely stepping beyond the traditional safety net of their own communities. 

In my life I have seen Aboriginal people not ever recognised in the Australian Constitution and living in a society rife with overt and systemic racism to, in 2021, being embraced and celebrated.

Today, we see Indigenous leaders in our Parliaments and at senior levels in the Public Service.

Name any field of endeavour – education, academia, diplomacy, government, non-government, industry, business, arts and sport, and others – there are countless examples of Indigenous success.

We increasingly see young and emerging Indigenous leaders in their own communities and in wider society.

Outstanding contributions from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – remarkable people who stengthen our country in myriad ways.

Where racism exists in our society, I would like to think that it is immediately and widely condemned. If it isn’t, it must be.

We’re not perfect, and there is still a long way to go. Progress has been made; the healing, which will never stop, goes on.

The experiences which have informed my thinking have been, for the most part, inspiring and informative.

Inspiring because of the reasons I’ve outlined.

Informative because they help guide modern Australia.

Reconciliation is about education and optimism, and ‘moving from safe to brave’.

I wish you much success in your important discussions at the Australian Reconciliation Convention.