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75 years on, reconciliation still relevant.

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The Hon Warren Snowdon MP Labor Member for Lingiari Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation

23 September 2003

75 years on, reconciliation still relevant


Seventy-five years after the massacre of Aborigines at Coniston, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was never more relevant, Warren Snowdon said today. “Today’s anniversary is an opportunity to promote reconciliation and raise awareness of the significance of this incident in Australian history,” Mr Snowdon said. “And for the Warlpiri, Anmatjerr and Kaytetye people, it is a chance to achieve some sense of closure and peace about this painful event in our past.” In 1928 at Coniston Station in central Australia, a police party killed an unknown number of Aborigines in response to the killing of a white station hand. A board of inquiry into the massacre found that the party had killed 31 people, although most historians believe that two to three times that number were killed. The inquiry, which heard evidence from just one Aborigine, eventually cleared police of murder after finding that they had acted in self-defence. Mr Snowdon, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Reconciliation, said the racism and ineptitude demonstrated by the inquiry became a catalyst for Aboriginal activism. “The actions of authorities following the events at Coniston were a shameful indictment on the government and the justice system,” Mr Snowdon said. “For Aboriginal Australians at the time, justice was simply not an option. “No reasonable description of the barbaric actions at Coniston can be given other than they were wanton and callous acts of murder, carried out with the imprimatur of people in authority. “Sadly, it took many more decades of oppression, hardship and struggle before governments finally began to address the terrible conditions and great abuses to which Aboriginal Australians were subjected. “What non-Aboriginal Australians must do is reconcile ourselves to the fact that this terrible event in our nation’s history was the product of the hurtful and racist policies pursued by governments for most of the first century of our nationhood. “This is not, as some would have it, a ‘black armband’ view of history — it is a simple matter of historical fact. “And while we cannot atone for the injustices perpetrated by these previous generations, we must acknowledge them as wrong. “We must also ensure that future generations of Aboriginal Australians are guaranteed their rights as citizens to adequate education, health care, housing and employment opportunities, and that their rights and interests in land are properly recognised. “This would be a true act of reconciliation.” Ends. Contact: Markus Mannheim: 0428 280 114