By Deborah Hoger on 1 May, 2024

This year the theme for National Reconciliation Week (27 May - 3 June) is one which strikes a powerful chord with many in light of the devastating referendum results of 2023.  

“Now More Than Ever” 

is a reminder to all of us that no matter what, the fight for justice and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will—and must—continue.  

(Reconciliation Australia). 

The aftermath of The Voice Referendum 

Last October, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and allies and accomplices were left shattered after the public rejection of the proposed law to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Indeed, we woke up in the following days to headlines of “Reconciliation is Dead.”  

While the sentiments behind such words are certainly not invalid, in the days, weeks and months following The Voice Referendum, organisations, businesses and communities have grieved and gathered their thoughts about what the outcome does indeed mean for reconciliation and where we go to from here.  

In late October, Reconciliation Australia hosted a webinar for Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) partners to talk about reconciliation after the referendum. They had over 1,000 participants join CEO Karen Mundine, and one of the key thoughts which emerged was that: 

It is now the job of non-Indigenous people to show up and bring more Australians with them. The 6.2 million Australians who voted Yes… 

The call to action: Now More Than Ever 

With this in mind, we arrive at this year's Reconciliation Week theme: Now More Than Ever.

These four impactful words summon the 6.2 million Australians who voted Yes, urging their dedication to improving outcomes for First Nations people. 

The call recognises that for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, the journey since October has been a painful one, and has left many disheartened. The fatigue and personal burden placed on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Peoples since October is real. As an Indigenous Australian, I can say that The Voice Referendum results felt like a slap in the face. While initial reactions were to sit in silence, it was a stark reminder of the immense magnitude of the work still to be done. 

This year’s theme asks, or rather, demands that reconciliation supporters and allies stand up to defend and uphold the rights of First Nations peoples. Racism must no longer be tolerated or swept under the rug. The voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be amplified across all spaces.

In the education sector we are in the unique position of being able to support all children to be active and informed members of their communities with knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives. This will lead to an informed next generation who will stand up and be counted. 

Early childhood education has a critical role to play in delivering this outcome and advancing Reconciliation in Australia.

(AGDE, 2023)

I remember asking my nine-year-old son the night of the Referendum what he thought the result might have been if it were children, not adults, who had to vote. He said he believed it would have been a win for the Yes vote. This lifts my spirit, as it speaks to him believing in a world where everyone has grown up educated and fully aware of the rights of Indigenous Australians as the First Peoples of Australia; it speaks to a world where empathy and reconciliation wins over racism and denial of truths.  

Reconciliation Australia tells us with this year’s theme that “ the work continues. In treaty making, in truth-telling, in understanding our history, in education, and in tackling racism. We need connection. We need respect. We need action. And we need change.”   

It is on this platform on which we need to position ourselves as we enter National Reconciliation Week in our schools, services and classrooms.  

Ideas for engagement this year 

We know that this week marks two significant dates; May 27, 1967, when Australians voted to rectify two clauses in the Constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and June 3, 1992, Mabo Day, marking the High Court of Australia's acknowledgement that the declaration of terra nullius in this country was unjust. 

We must continue to highlight these dates and ensure children are taught their history and significance. However, we should also enter this week mindful of the 2023 referendum, and consider how we can best support reconciliation in these challenging times.   

Reconciliation Australia tells us that “Now more than ever, the work continues.” 

So what can you do?

1. Review or begin working on your Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP)

A significant number of early childhood services across Australia already have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) - now is a good time to review existing RAPs to ensure alignment with current goals and initiatives.
For services without a formal commitment to Reconciliation, initiate the process of developing and implementing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) as the first step toward fostering reconciliation.  

2. Celebrate Reconciliation Week with children and students

Practical ideas might include:  

  • Hosting a bush tucker infused morning tea where you fund-raise for an Indigenous charity 
  • Booking in a class visit or excursion with your local Indigenous services and organisations
  • Hosting an outdoor yarning circle
  • Singing a school reconciliation song
  • Creating a reconciliation garden
  • Marking the occasion by engaging an Indigenous artist to create a collaborative art mural at your service 
  • Organising an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander author / illustrator talk for your children
  • Referring to the Narragunnawali website for Reconciliation project ideas

3. Consider the following questions to guide and support your service‘s reconciliation journey through critical reflection:

  1. How can we as a service privilege the voices of and ensure culturally safe spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples? 
  2. How can I embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, truth telling, ways of being, and knowing and into my teaching? 
  3. What are the gaps in our knowledge and how can we put a plan in place to address these gaps effectively and respectfully?

Asking ourselves these three questions will encourage us to seek out tangible ways in which we can all do better. Being intentional and purposeful in decision-making will guide our professional and personal growth so we can become effective allies and accomplices.

In summary, I strongly feel that we need to approach National Reconciliation Week this year with our minds and our hearts open, remembering that in spite of the challenges laid ahead of us from the referendum result, we can still make a difference.  

Need some inspiration?   

Stirling District Kindergarten, on Kaurna Country in South Australia, was named as the Early Learning category winner of the 2023 Narragunawali Awards. The awards are held every two years since 2017, are Australia's first and only national awards to recognise and celebrate schools and early learning services demonstrating dedication and commitment to implementing reconciliation initiatives. View their story below: 

Further reading/ references: 

Have you considered joining the Narragunnawali Community?

Narragunnawali Reconciliation in action: The Early Years Learning Framework

ACECQA: Developing Narragunnawali Reconciliation Action Plans and Exceeding the National Quality Standard 

Reconciliation Australia website: National Reconciliation Week  

CELA training relating to this topic: 


About Deborah

Deborah Hoger is a Dunghutti woman and owner and Director of a business specialising in Indigenous educational resources. She is passionate about using early childhood as a platform to introduce children to the rich depth of knowledge and unique perspectives that Indigenous Australia has to offer.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guild Insurance

CELA’s insurer of choice. Protecting Australian businesses and individuals with tailored insurance products and caring personal service.