A New Phase of Multiculturalism in Australia:
Aboriginal Reconciliation


Australia celebrated the centenary of its federation on the first day of the 21st century. The period between 1988 (bicentenary of colonisation) and 2001 had been the time for Australians to rediscover 'Australianess' in their history and to project it in the picture of the future Australia. Aboriginal reconciliation, as well as republican and constitutional debates could be understood as exercises in the search for a new national identity.

Australian immigration and aboriginal policies were instruments for building an Australian nation. They were both racially discriminatory, by which legitimate Australians were determined and selected. The policies, therefore, reflected images of 'an Australian nation' which legitimate Australians must have shared.

Multiculturalism was addressed when Australia came to terms with Asia-Pacific nations. It was an ideology to negate an identity of 'white Australia', to announce an Australian nation on the basis of cultural diversity, and to distinguish 'Australianess' from the legacy of British colonialism. Multiculturalism in Australia has been an ideology of nationalism.

Aboriginal reconciliation has, too, provided an ideology to reconstruct Australia's history and to innovate a nation and national culture. However, there are not yet agreements between non-indigenous and indigenous Australians about how 'reconciliation' is to be institutionalised. Remarks on multiculturalism extended to include indigenous culture, but most indigenous people in Australia rejected the idea of marginalisation of their culture as one of the multi-ethnic-cultures in Australian society. The document that the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation has worked on for 10 years could only 'celebrate common commitment to an ongoing reconciliation process'.

Genuine reconciliation may be achieved by empowering indigenous self-determination and by making compromises on local and practical issues. If multiculturalism in Australia evolves towards the idea of ensuring contacts and dialogues across diverse cultures, and encouraging non-indigenous Australians to understand the significance of 'land' for indigenous people, all Australians may be reconciled to the creation of an original culture in the society where everyone has a place.