Truth-telling took the spotlight as Commissioner Sue-Anne Hunter, Deputy Chair Yoorrook Justice Commission made her address and answered questions at this year’s Swinburne Annual Reconciliation Lecture.
The Swinburne Annual Reconciliation Lecture is hosted by the National Centre for Reconciliation Practice. The annual lecture advances understandings in the wider community on reconciliation in Australia.
How to build reconciliation
At this year’s event, proud Wurundjeri and Ngurai Illum Wurrung woman Commissioner Hunter asked: “How do you reconcile a history built upon falsehood?”
Many of us were raised with Australian history that starts with Captain Cook, with the world’s oldest living culture a mere footnote.
“Data from the 2020 Australian reconciliation barometer showed that over one third of Australians surveyed disbelieved or were unsure of fundamental aspects of our shared history. That includes the presence of Indigenous peoples at the time of European arrival, the occurrence of mass killings of First Peoples, their incarceration, forced removal from their land and restriction of movement,” says Commissioner Hunter.
On the other hand, 89 per cent of Australians believed in the importance of the country undertaking a formal truth-telling process. She explains that reconciliation begins by ending the silence.
Australia must reconcile with its past before we move forward – and this is a shared responsibility.
Executive Director Reconciliation Strategy and Leadership and Executive Director National Centre for Reconciliation Practice, Professor Andrew Gunstone, who emceed the event, said truth-telling is a critical component of a genuine reconciliation process and is a fundamental principle of Swinburne’s Elevate 2020-23 RAP.
Professor Gunstone also shared that since the Annual Reconciliation Lectures and the Annual Barak-Wonga Orations were established in 2016, there has been a very diverse range of topics discussed – such as personal stories, astronomy, treaties, self-determination, and education – and the fundamental area of truth-telling has been present in all the lectures.
The importance of the Yoorrook Justice Commission
The Yoorrook Justice Commission is the first formal truth-telling body into injustices experienced by Indigenous Peoples in Victoria. The Commission was formally established in May 2021 to hear, record and address these truths historically until the present day.
“Yoorrook is anything but conventional,” Commissioner Hunter says.
“Yoorrook is the result of continued advocacy and activism, and we owe a vast debt of gratitude to the generations of First Peoples who fought tirelessly for this. Yoorrook has been extremely hard fought-for.”
Yoorook means ‘truth’ in the Wemba Wemba/Wamba Wamba language, which is spoken in the north-west of Victoria.
Yoorrook is a historic opportunity for both Indigenous Peoples and other Victorians to finally listen to each other and create a new story together. Together with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians, it creates a path that leads to truth, understanding and transformation, and builds a shared understanding of our history.
Watch it back
Commissioner Hunter shared some of the initial findings from the Yoorrook Justice Commission, including two videos of interviews and emerging themes arising from the concerns of First Nations peoples.
She also encouraged all people to make a submission to Yoorrook and keep abreast of the stories coming out of the Commission, whether they are Indigenous or non-Indigenous.
Watch the full address: