A few years ago, I heard a radio interview with the Australian Indigenous author, Kim Scott, who said ‘the age of reconciliation’ is about to finish and the new ‘age of healing’ is coming. I like the idea of an age of healing. Our national leaders have apologised for past wrong-doing. The First People are being honoured in many places. Indigenous and non-indigenous are coming together. While I marvel at how far this nation has come compared to where it has been in relation to the people who have walked, cared, and loved this land for over 65,000 years, we all know there is still much to do. That past is very much with us today. Our challenge is for us all to listen with an open heart to what occurred in the past and, having listened and understood, commit ourselves individually and collectively to reconciliation.

As you enter the main College reception you will notice the recent installation of our Acknowledgement to Country. It is a beautiful representation of our First Nations on the land that Marist College Canberra now stands. Our colleague and proud First Nations man, Peter O’Callaghan, worked in partnership with the Buchi family, acknowledging the relationship of our Marist history and our rich First Nation heritage. Importantly the words remind all, of our collective responsibility to commit ourselves to the challenge of Closing the Gap and the ongoing journey of Reconciliation.

Matthew Hutchison and Peter O'Callaghan

I am very optimistic about the future of our First Australians. There are many challenges ahead that can immobilise us, but if we choose to be people who are working for the possibility of transformed lives and transformed attitudes and transformed societies, then the future of our First Australians is hopeful.

As we continue to process the hurt and devastation many First Nations people have felt after the 2023 Voice referendum, we can take some comfort in the fact that a lot more Australians now know more about 65,000 years of history and culture. In the lead into the referendum, a lot of effort was put into having very broad, deep conversations across our society. Despite the outcome, I believe we are now building from a much greater level of understanding First Nations culture.

As we celebrate National Reconciliation Week, we acknowledge the anniversary of the Referendum in 1967 which allowed the Federal Government to grant citizenship rights to our First Nation people. The week concludes with the anniversary of the High Court judgement in the Mabo case in 1992 which recognised the Native Title rights of certain First Nation people to their land. These commemorative events are an important part of the healing process. In order to change, we have to remember.

Matthew Hutchison