Corroboree 2000 was a landmark event held during Reconciliation Week 2000.
In 2000, the monumental event ‘Corroboree 2000’ was held. This was a 2-day event beginning with a gathering of both Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, and non-Indigenous leaders at the Sydney Opera House on the 27th of May and ending on the 28th of May with the ‘People’s Walk for Reconciliation’.
Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation 1991-2000
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CRA) was established after a unanimous vote in Commonwealth Parliament and was made a statutory authority on 2nd September 1991. The CRA was only intended to operate until 2001 as Parliament felt it was ‘most desirable’ that reconciliation be achieved by then as it would mark the 100 years since Federation.
The CRAs first chairperson was ‘Father of Reconciliation’, Patrick Dodson and their vision was for “A united Australia which respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and provides justice and equity for all.”
After much public consultation the council released two documents that were presented at the Corroboree 2000 event on the 27th of May 2000.
Image: When Australia Walked the Talk: The 2000 Reconciliation Bridge Walks, Reconciliation Australia
Corroboree 2000 – The Gathering of Leaders
The meeting that took place on the 27th of May saw dozens of leaders from both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as well as leaders from the non-Indigenous community, including then Prime Minister John Howard, gathered together at Sydney Opera House.
The CRA prepared and presented two documents they had developed. The first was the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation which ended with the statement
“Our hope is for a united Australia that respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and provides justice and equity for all.”
The second document was the Roadmap for Reconciliation.
Many of those in attendance gave speeches including Prime Minster John Howard. His speech sparked anger in many of the audience with some turning their back on him while others shouted “just say sorry” as he expressed regret over the actions of past governments while remaining firm that it was not the current governments responsibility to apologise on the behalf of those past governments.
Image: Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Walk for Reconciliation, Corroboree 2000, with the Aboriginal flag flying beside the Australian flag, NMA.
The Peoples Walk for Reconciliation
Day two of this event was the 'Peoples Walk for Reconciliation' across Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The idea for this walk had been discussed as early as 1995, originally seeing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mob on one side of the bridge and non-Indigenous people on the other walking to meet each other in the middle. They decided instead to have everyone walk together beginning on the northern end of the bridge and ending at Darling Harbour where a free concert was being held.
It took almost six hours for the roughly 250,000 people in attendance to full cross the bridge with the National Museum of Australia at the time describing it as the “largest political demonstration ever held in Australia.”
The crowd had a live energy and spirits were high. People carried banners and flowers, Aboriginal and Australian flags were seen flying side by side at the top of the bridge and a skywriter wrote “sorry” in the sky above the protesters.
In attendance were many members of the Labour Party and even several coalition backbenchers were there on the day. Prime Minister John Howard did not attend, instead sending his Aboriginal Affairs Minister, John Herron, and Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation, Phillip Ruddock.
There were several other walks across the country in support such as the Brisbane walk which drew a crowd of 60,000 and the Melbourne walk which drew a crowd of almost 300,000 people.
Image: SORRY is written in the sky as demonstrators march for reconciliation, Sydney Morning Herald.