In the mid-1850s, William Donovan migrated to NSW from County Cork, Ireland. As family legend has it, the Donovans were known as the ''Black Irish'', many of whom left Ireland in search of a better future after losing their land to the British. Perhaps recognising a kindred spirit, William Donovan settled down with Catherine Marshall, a young Aboriginal woman. William and Catherine were my great-grandparents and it was through these Irish origins that Catholicism was introduced to my branch of the Mundine family. My father, Roy Mundine, converted to Catholicism when he married my mother, Dolly Donovan.
For Catholics, ''reconciliation'' is one of the seven sacraments of the church. It's also known as ''confession'', although admission of wrong is only one part of it. The most important part is absolution from sin. Young people going through the sacrament today learn that reconciliation has two essential elements - being sorry and receiving forgiveness.
Reconciliation involves both the wrongdoer and the wronged taking steps towards each other to restore or establish a relationship after a conflict or estrangement. When we talk about reconciliation in the context of indigenous affairs, we talk a lot about the sorry part but we don't talk much about the forgiveness part.
As a nation, Australia and its citizens have taken big steps of remorse and amends, both symbolic and practical. There was the 1967 referendum and the national apology by the federal government and, importantly, both were overwhelmingly supported by the Australian people. Today every government and most big companies have a reconciliation action plan. Both governments and the private sector are devoting substantial funds and resources to overcome the ongoing consequences of past wrongdoing and close the gap between indigenous and other Australians in health, employment and education. There have been many successes. Attitudes have radically changed. There has been real reform in land rights and anti-discrimination laws, access to university and professions and access to employment, with the private sector already committing more than 60,000 jobs for unemployed indigenous people.
Racism against indigenous people in Australia used to be a mainstream attitude perpetuated in all the institutions - media, government, schools and universities, business and the legal system, for example. It is now very much in the minority. Indirect and unconscious biases do remain and overcoming them can be complicated. However, in my experience most people want to address them once they are identified.
I don't mean racism doesn't exist, but that it is now on the margins.
We would all be aware of the incident last year when a child hurled a racial slur at Adam Goodes during a football match between Collingwood and Sydney. The following week, Collingwood Football Club president Eddie McGuire made things worse by attempting to make a joke but actually redelivering the slur. What really struck me about this incident, however, was the overwhelming support for Goodes, and condemnation of the conduct by the mainstream of Australia.
Forty years ago, no one would have cared. Indigenous sporting players regularly experienced racial taunts on the field, from fans and other players.
Twenty years ago, Nicky Winmar put up with racial abuse from the Collingwood cheer squad throughout a match before famously raising his jumper, facing the crowd and pointing at his skin. This triggered action against racism in Aussie rules. But even then, there were people who believed racial taunts were a legitimate tactic and part of the game.
In the past our media, institutions and most people expressed racist sentiments intuitively. Now it is the reverse - most people intuitively reject racism.
However, for real reconciliation, it is not enough that the country says sorry, feels remorse, rejects racism and seeks to make amends. It would not even be enough to close the gap.
For real reconciliation, indigenous people also need to forgive. I'm not suggesting indigenous people should forgive wrongdoers as individuals. However, I believe the time must come when they forgive Australia as a nation.
Indigenous people have every reason to be aggrieved and angry about the past. As a people, and as a nation, we must never forget it. These events cannot be undone. This is a permanent, irreversible part of our history.
Indigenous people now have two options: continue to feel anger at the nation for something the nation cannot change. Or leave these events in the past, draw a line in history and allow the nation to start with a clean slate.
Continuing to feel anger can manifest itself in many ways. For example, always assuming the worst of Australian authorities; talking about atrocities of the past as a way of shaming or criticising the nation today; pouncing on a single word or turn of phrase and amplifying it into something it is not; or equating patriotism with racism.
Drawing a line in history means indigenous people permitting themselves to love their country, express patriotism, take pride in Australia's successes and achievement, and feel part of Australia as a nation, in addition to their own indigenous nations.
We can have all the reconciliation action plans we like, but there will be no reconciliation until indigenous people are willing to accept the nation's apologies; until we as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people acknowledge Australia's right to exist.
All Australians should know the history of the continent as far back as is known, warts and all. This should include a proper study of the history of indigenous cultures before 1788, including kinship systems and different tribal nations. It should also include European history, how Europeans came to, and explored, this continent and how European cultures, systems and institutions developed here.
The conflict between indigenous and European people is a significant part of our history and should be taught. So is the experience of the pioneer European settlers; so is our history of immigration and how immigrants have influenced Australia; so is our participation as a nation in war; and so is European, particularly British, history.
History is not about imputing the past onto people of the present or making people feel shame or looking at the past through modern eyes. And it's not about editing out the bits we prefer not to emphasise, be they positive or negative.
History should not be sanitised to make people feel better or worse - both sides of the ''culture wars'' should take note of this. Teach the facts; and teach all of them.
Nyunggai Warren Mundine is Tony Abbott's chief adviser on Aboriginal affairs. This is an edited extract of a speech given by him on Australia Day. The full version can be found here.