National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) is about strengthening the connections between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples for the benefit of all Australians.

This year’s theme is ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’. Now more than ever it is crucial to understand and grow relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This involves taking action and learning about Indigenous culture under your own steam.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities to learn about Indigenous Australian culture and history. Here are just five ways you can learn about Indigenous culture this Reconciliation Week.

The artwork for National Reconciliation Week 2021, ‘Action’, was created by Jessica Johnson, a descendent of the Warumungu/Wombaya people north of Tennant Creek. It is the story of the land and community sharing the united call for action on reconciliation.

1. Learn about significant events in reconciliation

There are two dates that commemorate significant events on the road towards reconciliation:

27 May 1967 marks the referendum that saw 90 per cent of Australian voters choose ‘Yes’ to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the census.

The High Court Mabo decision on June 3 1992 led to the recognition of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of their land.

Learn how Indigenous Australians were impacted by these events, and their struggles to win these rights.

2. Acknowledge Traditional Owners

One step you can take towards reconciliation is acknowledging the traditional owners and ongoing custodians of the land.

The AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia is a great guide for discovering the traditional owners of the land where you live.

Feel free to let people on your social media platforms know which traditional lands you call home. It’s a good way to spread knowledge about who the traditional owners are in different areas.

Pay your respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the traditional custodians and owners of the land at the start of meetings and events with an Acknowledgement of Country, or Welcome to Country (PDF, 366 KB). This shows that you respect the traditional custodians, their Country and their history.

AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia attempts to represent all language, tribal or nation groups of the Indigenous peoples of Australia.

3. Explore Indigenous histories & culture

Indigenous Australians have existed on this land for tens of thousands of years. Their history is long and expansive, and learning about it can aid greater understanding between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people.

Trails of Feeling is an interactive walking trail that emphasises local Aboriginal histories, stories and beliefs based in Melbourne CBD (central business district). It challenges the colonial histories connected to the current built environment to deepen our emotional understanding of both past and present.

You can also take an in-person or virtual tour of the First Peoples exhibition at Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum and learn more about the timeline of Indigenous Australians on this land.

4. Reflect on National Sorry Day

National Sorry Day takes place the day before Reconciliation Week and is an event that encourages Australians to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country's Indigenous peoples. It is part of the ongoing process of reconciliation and is important in growing understanding and learning from mistakes of the past.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples on 13 February 2008, particularly to the Stolen Generations whose lives were negatively impacted by past government policies of forced child removal and Indigenous assimilation.

5. Get ready for NAIDOC Week

NAIDOC Week is an Australian observance lasting from the first Sunday to the second Sunday in July. It stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, and has its roots in the 1938 Day of Mourning.

The NAIDOC 2021 theme – Heal Country! – calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.

NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The week is celebrated not just in the Indigenous Australian communities, but also in increasing numbers of government agencies, schools, local councils and workplaces.

NAIDOC Week 2021 will be held from Sunday 4 July to Sunday 11 July. Get involved!

Find out more

Find out how VU’s Indigenous Academic Unit, Moondani Balluk, supports Indigenous students, produces world-leading research, delivers courses and units with an Aboriginal focus, and promotes cultural awareness.

Visit Reconciliation Australia for more online events, and ways to get involved.

Visit VU's Indigenous Academic unit Moondani Balluk.