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Australia Was "Invaded", Indigenous Affairs Minister Says

A new report has revealed a deep schism between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

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A report on the state of relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has revealed a deep rift filled with distrust.

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The State of Reconciliation in Australia report, launched by Reconciliation Australia in Caneberra on Tuesday, shows that while around 85% of Australians believe it is important to have a healthy relationship with the Indigenous community, levels of distrust between both communities remains high.

Around 74% of the general population thought that trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people was low.

"There is a national conversation taking place about our shared identity, and increasing support for national reconciliation throughout Australian society. However, there are still many hard conversations before us," Reconciliation Australia CEO Justin Mohamed says.

The report also found Indigenous people still experience high levels of racism. At least 33% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had experienced some form of verbal racial abuse in the six months prior to the study.

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"In regard to equality, it is clear that large and unacceptable gaps between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians exist on all social, health, education and economic indicators," the report reads.

"Reflecting the reality of the statistics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to consider their living conditions worse than other peoples and are more likely to see barriers to employment and education".

Only 30% of the general community said they socialise with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and 35% believe Australia is a racist country.

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In a speech launching the report, indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion called the colonistation of Australia an “invasion” and told the audience of his frustrations at having selective parts of Australia's history taught in schools.

Scullion says without education there can be no true reconciliation.

"Much work has been done, many truths have been told and many changes made to bring us to the self-searching public discussion that is underway right now about reconciliation," he said.

"I think a new focus on education and young people is just so important. I despair, I have made many attempts, both inside and outside of the government, of changing the curriculum to reflect the history of our first Australians".

"It's an exciting and dynamic history, yes for those people who came to this nation and invaded their shores it comes with a lot of guilt of course it does, but it is so important that we introduce into our curriculum the proper history of our first Australians".

The report comes 25-years after the formation of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR), which had a mandate to create better relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community

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There have been several concentrated efforts over the past two decades aimed at encouraging more harmony and unity in Australia by the government and Indigenous leaders.

In 2000, the historic Reconciliation 2000 bridge walk saw thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people march in solidarity, in 2006 the Closing the Gap campaign was launched to raise awareness of the wildly disparate life expectancy of Indigenous people, and in 2008 former prime minister Kevin Rudd delivered the historic apology to the stolen generations.

"The report brings the state of reconciliation into sharp focus—achievements, challenges, disappointments and work that must continue," former CAR chairperson Patrick Dodson writes in the foreword.

"Disturbingly, the Report reveals the schism between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia’s understanding and perspectives of how our nation’s history has shaped the contemporary circumstances of Indigenous communities, and their relationship with the Australian State".

"There is a discernible lack of appreciation by settler Australia about the grievances and sense of historical injustice that Indigenous people feel. This must be addressed

for Australia to be reconciled," Dodson writes.

Despite high levels of racism and distrust, the report also found that the 64% of Australians believe cultural diversity makes us stronger as a nation.

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“As a nation of peoples, we don’t always agree on the impacts of the past, and what we can do to change this in the future. Today’s Report provides a clear blueprint for a reconciled Australia in which we can all equally participate,” Mohamed says.

The State of Reconciliation report features seven recommendations for federal and state governments to implement to increase harmony and equality.

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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