On Truth Telling

Each year, Reconciliation Australia releases its State of Reconciliation Report. Evidence in this year’s report suggests Australia’s reconciliation movement is at a tipping point. Karen Mundine, Chief Executive Officer of Reconciliation Australia notes that ‘we need to move more of our effort from focussing on the preconditions for reconciliation, to focussing more on substantive change.’

For us, substantive change is about being comfortable with truth telling.

To be wholly receptive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities’ truths can be challenging. It asks us to actively build our awareness of the historical injustices that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have endured and the ongoing impact of colonisation on community.

Truth telling asks us to engage with, understand and speak up on the issues that challenge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities: incarceration, homelessness, removal from country and kin.

It asks us to—individually and collectively—develop our deep listening skills, so we can hear the truths that Traditional Owners of the Land share for the benefit of a wiser society for all Australians.

And truth telling requires courage and commitment. We are committed to using our professional tools to support the ‘processes, programs and approaches that give effect to self-determination’ [2]: a Key Action of Equality and Equity in Reconciliation Australia’s Report.

We can see that a reconciled Australia brings benefits for everyone and is a necessary part of a strong national identity and new and integrated ways of living for all Australians.


Active Listening can be a radical act of shared responsibility for creating shared understanding and respect. It has the power to reshape the spaces between us, and be transformational both for the listener and the speaker. There are many views held by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about the 26th of January. There is value to be had in listening to the diversity of opinions, and being able to hold space and respect for them. As Luke Pearson says, ‘All… are essential pieces of the whole that are needed to fully recognise the significance of this date.’ [3]


The evidence in the Reconciliation Australia report suggests that the reconciliation movement in Australia is at a tipping point. Not the first tipping point we have seen in the history of this country but one we must make the most of.

What does substantive change look like? One possibility is to change the intent of our activities on 26th January. Instead of celebrating on a day that represents the beginning of colonisation and conflict, we could each spend time reflecting and laying out tangible actions we want to take towards reconciliation.

As Alex Greenwich MP, the independent member for Sydney stated in his last update, ‘I will use the day to reflect on the historic injustices faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and urge new citizens to work with me and fellow Sydneysiders towards reconciliation and treaty’.


For me, a big part of being able to speak up, is to first listen to community and the knowledge they hold. In a recent project, I have been travelling around NSW to engage and listen to community. I have learnt deep listening skills from watching Simon, ARTD’s Aboriginal Portfolio Director, and our Aboriginal Associate facilitate focus groups with local community members. It’s all about the art of Active Listening; hearing what community say and then ensuring your understanding of what they say is accurate by repeating back what you heard in your own words.

Listening is something we can all benefit from on the 26th.



  1. https://www.reconciliation.org.au/2021-state-of-reconciliation-report-released/
  2. https://www.reconciliation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/state-of-reconciliation-2021-summary-report_web.pdf
  3. https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2017/01/19/opinion-invasion-day-survival-day-or-day-mourning-all-above?fbclid=IwAR3o35Y0klQLr7BiHKSfDg5CdKj_tm41g9s50LMIPXmyzRD3G3XAgHSNCnA
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