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First Nations reconciliation - questions and activities

James O'Brien  |  06 March 2019

Read Opening up to First Nations peoples in the 2019 Autumn edition of Australian Catholics and take part in the reflections and activities.


  • Why does true reconciliation require facing up to Australia’s history?
  • What is the significance of the Uluru Statement?
  • What would a treaty achieve for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples? Why would it have such a lasting impact?
  • When Sherry Balcombe says the treaty would be a ‘major healing for our community’ what do you think she means?
  • Why was Pope John Paul II’s visit important for inspiring reconciliation?
  • Balcombe quotes an old saying ‘don’t do anything for me without me’. How can settler Australians stand with First Nations Australians on the way to a treaty?


  • ‘Opening up to First Nations peoples’ shares the vision behind a treaty. In groups of three, prepare a mindmap of how true reconciliation could come closer to reality as a result of such a new beginning for Australia.
  • The Uluru Statement proposes a ‘Makarrata Commission’ which would facilitate a process of agreement-making and truth-telling. By researching the process leading up to the Bringing Them Home report, workshop small group presentations explaining how this Commission could facilitate a new truth-telling about Australia’s history. Questions for research and discussion could include: What resources would such a commission require? How would it create a respectful yet searingly honest dialogue about the past? What opportunities for healing could these conversations open up? What challenges could these conversations involve?
  • Sherry Balcombe encourages all Australians to ’Hear the songs that have been sung’. Now listen to Baker Boy’s interview with SBS’s The Feed and prepare a short speech describing the ways Baker Boy rapping in language builds understanding and valuing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and experiences.
  • Visit the website of your nearest Aboriginal Catholic Ministry. Write a draft email to the co-ordinator expressing your interest in furthering Reconciliation efforts and Treaty preparations in your local area. In your email, ask for recommendations for you and your fellow students wishing to make their contribution. Students give their draft email to the teacher, and one may be chosen to send on behalf of the class.

For younger students

Sherry Balcombe asks everyone to work together on creating a new and reconciled future for Australia.

  • ‘Reconciliation’ brings renewal to personal and communal relationships. Who do you know who might be waiting for you to help renew the relationship?
  • Listen to Gurrumul singing with Missy Higgins at the 2011 ARIA awards. Give students an outline of the map of Australia. As students listen, ask them to draw with coloured pencils their images and symbols of a reconciled Australia.


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