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Reconciliation in 2004 - the outlook is positive after key gains in 2003

By Jackie Huggins - posted Thursday, 18 December 2003

There is no doubt that 2003 has been a ground-breaking year - a year that sees Australia poised to break through barriers of approach and attitude that have previously hindered us in achieving sustained and positive change for Indigenous Australians.

Viewed in terms of their joint potential, four large scale reviews of policy development and service delivery, plus a series of historic negotiated outcomes, mean that we are now in a position to finally make an impact on persistently appalling outcomes.

These outcomes were highlighted last month in the benchmarking report from the Productivity Commission, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage – Key Indicators 2003. Against the background of high birth rates among Indigenous Australians and a dramatic increase in the proportion of young people, it is widely acknowledged by government and community that if we don’t turn the situation around, the entire nation will suffer the consequences.


Reconciliation has been very much on the national agenda during 2003, with substantial activity in the government, corporate and community sectors.

The challenge now is to ensure that the good intentions of 2003 are translated into positive action to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

The signs are good. We see a great body of new knowledge, the will to change, and creativity and energy being applied to reconciliation across all sectors.

What we need to do now, as a nation, is to join these points of light.

Significant and important steps have been taken on the path to reconciliation during 2003.

But we celebrate these achievements against the bleak reality that the majority of Indigenous Australians still experience extreme disadvantage and many are living in third world conditions.


Nevertheless there have been encouraging signs during 2003 that governments and others are beginning to recognise the importance of resolving the underlying causes of this disadvantage, and we have seen fledgling attempts to look for solutions based on specific individual and community need instead of the one-size-fits-all approach of the past.

Reconciliation Australia’s 2003 Reconciliation Report provides a roundup of activities initiated by governments, business and communities throughout 2003 and offers solid evidence of what is possible when we demonstrate a preparedness to think and act creatively.

Through its independent promotion of partnerships across the public, business and community sectors, Reconciliation Australia is well placed to share the good news of what is possible in reconciliation, and to advise on its significance in terms of policy development and service delivery. We are also well placed to highlight those areas where governments and others must do more and/or better.

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This is a summary of the 2003 Reconciliation Report. The full report is available here (pdf, 796Kb).

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About the Author

Jackie Huggins is Deputy Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Unit at the University of Queensland and Co-chair of Reconciliation Australia.

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