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‘Justice and equality for all’

2000: Walk for Reconciliation across Sydney Harbour Bridge

Loui Seselja, National Library of Australia nla.obj-145680129
2000 Today

Use the following additional activities and discussion questions to encourage students (in small groups or as a whole class) to think more deeply about this defining moment.

Questions for discussion

1. What does ‘regret’ mean and how is it different from an apology?

2. What do you think were some of the benefits of the Walk for Reconciliation, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants?

3. The Walk for Reconciliation was the culmination of many years of work by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. What issues brought these people together and why was this unity of purpose important?

4. Do you agree with the National Museum of Australia that the Walk for Reconciliation is a defining moment in Australian history? Explain your answer.

Image activities

1. Look carefully at all the images for this defining moment. Which three images do you think are the most important for telling this story? Why?

2. If you could pick only one image to represent this story, which one would you choose? Why?

Finding out more

1. What else would you like to know about this defining moment? Write a list of questions and then share these with your classmates. As a group create a final list of three questions and conduct some research to find the answers.

<p>Joshua Dumas and Auntie Ada Jarrett during the Walk for Reconciliation, 2000</p>
Nick Moir / The Sydney Morning Herald

In a snapshot

On 28 May 2000 about 250,000 people walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to show their support for reconciliation between Australia’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Soon after, similar events took place in other cities and towns around Australia. Together these events were the biggest demonstration of public support for a cause that has ever taken place in Australia.

Joshua Dumas and Auntie Ada Jarrett during the Walk for Reconciliation, 2000

Findout icon Can you find out?

1. How many people took part in the Walk for Reconciliation across the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

2. How long did it take for all the participants to cross the bridge?

3. What did the Walk for Reconciliation show?

What events led up to the Walk for Reconciliation?

In the 1990s important progress was made toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia. In 1991 the Australian Parliament passed an Act which created the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. The Council’s job was to guide Australia’s reconciliation process.

In the 1992 Mabo decision the High Court of Australia ruled that Australia was not terra nullius (land belonging to nobody) when it was claimed by Britain in 1770. This led to the Native Title Act 1993, which made it possible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to claim ownership of their traditional lands. 

The Bringing Them Home report, published in 1997, showed that thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait children had been taken away from their families by governments around Australia. These children have become known as the Stolen Generations. The report said that all Australian governments should apologise to Indigenous people, especially the Stolen Generations. 

What was Corroboree 2000?

Corroboree 2000 was two events held over two days in May 2000.

At the first event, on 27 May 2000, Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders met at the Sydney Opera House. The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation gave the non-Indigenous leaders two documents: the ‘Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation’ and the ‘Roadmap for Reconciliation’. All the leaders who took part left their handprints on a canvas, to show their support for reconciliation.

The Prime Minister John Howard gave a speech at the event. He expressed ‘regret’ for the past treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but he did not apologise. This left many people in the crowd unhappy.

Research task

 

How have events that have taken place since the 2000 Walk for Reconciliation both helped and hindered reconciliation in Australia? Do some research to find out.

‘Our hope is for a united Australia that respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and provides justice and equity for all.’

 

Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation, 2000

What happened during the Walk for Reconciliation?

The second event of Corroboree 2000 was the Walk for Reconciliation across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It took place on 28 May 2000.

About 250,000 Indigenous and non-Indigenous people walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to show their support for reconciliation. Australian and Aboriginal flags flew side by side on top of the Bridge’s arch, and a skywriter wrote the word ‘Sorry’ in the sky above the Harbour.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activists Faith Bandler and Bonita Mabo (the widow of Eddie Mabo) were among the first to cross the Bridge. Prime Minister John Howard didn’t take part but many other politicians did. 

So many people participated in the walk that the event took nearly six hours. It was the largest political demonstration ever held in Australia.

After the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk similar events were held across Australia.

<p>Crowd on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Walk for Reconciliation, 2000</p>

Loui Seselja, National Library of Australia, obj-145680220

<p>Crowd on the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Walk for Reconciliation, 2000</p>

Why was the Walk for Reconciliation important?

Although the event was organised by Aboriginal people, the participants were from all sections of the Australian community. The walks showed that support for reconciliation, and a national apology to Indigenous peoples, was growing.

Eight years after the Walk for Reconciliation, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a national apology to Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Research task

 

Explore the article ‘Significant Aboriginal events in Sydney’ on the Barani website. Choose one of the events mentioned in article and explain why it was important.

Sydney Barani

Findout icon What did you learn?

1. How many people took part in the Walk for Reconciliation across the Sydney Harbour Bridge?

2. How long did it take for all the participants to cross the bridge?

3. What did the Walk for Reconciliation show?