Some painted and others danced, but Aboriginal Elder Wally Bell hopes Reconciliation Day is just the beginning of what he hopes becomes a year-long process.
Canberrans flocked to the National Arboretum on Monday to take part in Reconciliation Day for the fourth year since being introduced in the ACT to mark the anniversary of the 1967 referendum.
However, the message from Aboriginal leaders was clear: "It's time to walk the walk."
"We're doing stuff on this day and this week but the whole reconciliation process should be a year-long thing," Mr Bell said.
"We have Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC week and Sorry Day as occasions, but I strongly believe we should be doing it right throughout the year if reconciliation is ever going to happen."
Activities included language workshops, storytelling and cultural walks, while Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Rachel Stephen-Smith also encouraged attendees to "stop and reflect and have the conversations of today more often".
But Elder Violet Sheridan said change had to be made on a broad spectrum to be successful.
"If you don't know, ask. We need to learn from each other, so don't be afraid to ask questions."
The panel also encouraged the community to use resources from the ACT Reconciliation Council and Reconciliation Australia to ask these questions and understand what they can do to help.
The theme of the day was More than a word: Reconciliation takes action. Aunty Violet said to her that meant if you were going to do the talk, you had to walk the walk.
"We need a lot of people to start walking again," she said.
Aunty Violet recalled walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in May 2000, when more than a quarter of a million people came out to show their support for meaningful reconciliation between Australia's Indigenous and non Indigenous people.
"I looked ahead of me and there was waves and waves of people, I looked behind me and there was more waves of people," she said.
"I actually cried because I saw all these people out to support us and for us to go forward in reconciliation, but we have not achieved what we thought we would.
"We need our leaders to take control. We need to take reconciliation further than where we've come, but I'm not sure we're going to achieve reconciliation in my life time."
Mr Bell said more needs to be done to teach people about Aboriginal culture and the history of his people.
"You'd have to stage [the teaching] I think because you don't want to horrify young kids with the true story, which is horrifying in itself," Mr Bell said.
"You don't want your kids being traumatised.
"Aboriginal people ... they'd take them out and shoot them or we've got our own massacre site on the Barton Highway. Not many people know about this site, but that site was used to kill children. Things like that might be traumatising to young children. That's what I meant by you'd need to stage it throughout their education."
ACT Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Rachel Stephen-Smith attended the small ceremony, alongside her predecessor in the portfolio Chris Burke.
Mr Burke was instrumental in introducing Reconciliation Day as a public holiday to the ACT four years ago.
Now the co-chair of the ACT Reconciliation Council, Mr Burke said all jurisdictions had signed the agreement, committing to close the gaps between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.
"The commitment in that agreement is to identify and call out institutional racism," he said.
"To involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the governance of organisations and within the accountability of those organisations.
"These are the actions needed for reconciliation."
Mr Burke invited the small crowd to the National Arboretum to hear and experience how it could be achieved.
- with Nicola Ceccato
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: