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Reconciliation: Now, More than Ever

Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls sat at his old piano. “It is a beautiful song when the black notes are played. It is a beautiful song when the white notes are played.” He was talking to his nephew Bobby. “But when you play them together, that’s when you have a harmony.”


Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls was an Aboriginal man – a proud Yorta Yorta man from up on the Murray, who had watched his sister be dragged from his mother’s arms by government authorities. By white people. Yet he still spoke of the importance of black and white playing not separately, but together. Together, he said, we have harmony.


It is Reconciliation Week, which is a week about friendship. It is amazing that Aboriginal people in this country still extend the hand of friendship to non-Indigenous folk, after the decades and decades of racism and discrimination they have faced, and continue to face. But they do. This is the time for receiving that hand of friendship, and walking together.


In fact, we need friendship and reconciliation in these lands now more than ever. This is the theme of Reconciliation Week in 2024, and it comes in the wake of a referendum in which Australians decided that they wouldn’t recognise an Aboriginal voice in the constitution. The referendum was a time of great friendship and solidarity – black and white keys playing together – but it was also a sticky, mucky place where all sorts of ugly, racist attitudes come to the fore. The referendum showed the best of us, and the worst of us, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in these lands are hurting now as a result. Friendship and care is needed. Now more than ever.


Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls went on to become a professional footballer – despite the racism he experienced on and off the field. At a Church of Christ chapel in Northcote he experienced a conversation, and later became an ordained pastor.  He and his wife Gladys worked tirelessly for the betterment of their people, with a house and a church overflowing with those in need, all the while advocating to government for better treatment of his people. Pastor Sir Doug eventually became the Governor of South Australia. He knew what it was to hear the harmony of black and white, playing together.


This Reconciliation Week, how can we make harmonies – black and white and indeed all colours, playing together?

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