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Past, present and future: was, is and always will be

Rudi Maxwell -

Where to now for reconciliation in the wake of the unsuccessful referendum on a First Nations voice to parliament?

That's the question on the top of the list when educators from across the country gather at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra on Friday for a forum about the past, present and future of reconciliation in education.

The event will include leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educationalists discussing reconciliation in education, post referendum and as the new history curriculum rolls out.

Professors Tom Calma and Marcia Langton, who were appointed by the former Morrison Government to chair the Indigenous voice co-design process, will speak at the forum.

Reconciliation Australia board member and educator Sharon Davis said reconciliation in education had been a focus of the not-for-profit for a long time.

"But at the moment, I can't think of a more important time with the results of the recent voice referendum and what's happening to indigenous peoples all over the world," they said.

"Now is a better time than any to be able to talk about the importance of reconciliation, education and understanding one another."

Sharon said the need for greater knowledge, understanding and education about the truth of this country has been starkly highlighted.

"I think people, including teachers sometimes, do get a bit confused between what is Aboriginal education and what is reconciliation education," they said.

"Reconciliation and education is for everyone to learn about truth, telling the true story of of this country, to learn about what happened and still happens in terms of colonisation, the ongoing impacts of that, but also the amazing strengths of our mob.

"And the blackest excellence that's out there and the rigour that exists in Aboriginal cultures, through learning science, writing, art, language, all those different areas that have been often, historically, overlooked."

This forum is being hosted by Reconciliation Australia's Narragunnawali Reconciliation in Education and Ngarrngga, a Melbourne University project, that creates innovative curriculum resources and masterclass-style professional development for educators on First Nations knowledges.

Ngarrngga director Melitta Hogarth said the opportunity to learn shared histories is critically important.

"It allows for non-Indigenous people in Australia to understand this history and the reasons why there is a disconnect within Australian society," she said.

"The new curriculum, if implemented with proper resources and teacher training, will promote reconciliation and improved relationships between the very diverse cultural groups within Australian society."

Sharon believes previously there's been a focus on understanding Indigenous perspectives and less about race and battling racism.

"One of the most horrible things as a result of the referendum was that it opened a floodgate for racist rhetoric to just happen in everyday life and everyday situations," they said.

"People were emboldened to spew racist hate and I think, as a country, a lot of us found it very hard to know how to combat that.

"So I feel like going forward having a focus on anti-racism and how everyday Australians can, should and must combat racism will be something that that's really important."

In the evening, the Narragunnawali Awards will celebrate Australian schools and early learning services with a passion for reconciliation in education.

Rudi Maxwell - AAP

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