Aboriginal leader urges people to think deeper on Reconciliation Day
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Aboriginal leader urges people to think deeper on Reconciliation Day

A leader in the ACT's Aboriginal community has praised the territory's first Reconciliation Day public holiday, but urged people to look beyond symbolic gestures and think about "real, tangible outcomes" for Indigenous people.

Ngambri-Ngunnawal custodian Paul House was front and centre as Canberra marked Reconciliation Day on Monday morning, delivering the Welcome to Country address at a community event on Reconciliation Place.

Bella, Bo, Reuben and Paul House perform at Canberra's first ever Reconciliation Day public holiday event on Monday morning.

Bella, Bo, Reuben and Paul House perform at Canberra's first ever Reconciliation Day public holiday event on Monday morning.Credit:Karleen Minney

Speaking after the event, Mr House said Australia was moving closer to reconciliation every day, and that while the public holiday was a good step, it was time to move away from tokenism and give greater recognition to historical events like the frontier wars.

He said Indigenous people also wanted to see their native languages revived through the education system, and to have more of a chance to make big decisions.

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Bella and Bo House at a smoking ceremony to mark Reconciliation Day in Canberra on Monday morning.

Bella and Bo House at a smoking ceremony to mark Reconciliation Day in Canberra on Monday morning.Credit:Karleen Minney

Just eight Indigenous people have been elected to Federal Parliament, while former Member for Ginninderra Chris Bourke has been the only Indigenous member of the ACT Legislative Assembly.

"There needs to be a greater sharing of power in this country," said Mr House, who stood unsuccessfully for the Liberal Party in the 2016 ACT election.

Dozens of people turn out to mark the ACT's first ever Reconciliation Day public holiday at an event on Reconciliation Place on Monday morning.

Dozens of people turn out to mark the ACT's first ever Reconciliation Day public holiday at an event on Reconciliation Place on Monday morning.Credit:Karleen Minney

"Aboriginal people need to be better represented in Parliament, because we know that the system of democracy that we have today doesn't quite work for the Aboriginal people on the ground.

"I think we can come up with a mechanism to get more Aboriginal people sitting at the table of power, so we can work harder and smarter together."

Mr House said he was encouraged to see so many non-Indigenous people in the crowd at Monday morning's Reconciliation Place event, which included a smoking ceremony and Indigenous dance performance.

"It's about respect, living in peace together and strengthening your connection to country, no matter where you're from," he said.

"That's for all Australians. We all need to be gentle, patient and kind so we can live peacefully in our own country."

Canberra's Reconciliation Day events continued later on Monday, with four hours of live music, activities, art and food at Glebe Park.

Reconciliation in the Park will continue for at least the next four years, with the ACT government announcing on Monday that it would provide $200,000 a year to make it an annual festival.

The government also announced on Monday that it would recruit an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts officer to engage with local artists.

Arts Minister Gordon Ramsay said this would help address the under-representation of Indigenous artists in local arts funding and grants programs.

Blake Foden is a reporter at the Sunday Canberra Times. He has worked as a journalist in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

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