The state took a historic step forward on Wednesday, as hundreds of supporters gathered for the launch of the Reconciliation Council of Tasmania.
The launch of the independent body comes after months of hard work from Bill Lawson, who is aiming to unite all Tasmanians, to celebrate Indigenous culture, and encourage open and honest discussion.
While Tasmania has come a long way, many spoke of the distances the state still needed to travel to reach true reconciliation.
Mr Lawson said there needed to be a continued dialogue right across the Aboriginal and non-Indigenous community.
“If you look at Aboriginal disadvantage all around Australia, not just Tasmania, there are three planks – there’s health, housing and education,” he said.
“What’s important with independence and neutrality is speaking the truth, and sometimes the truth is uncomfortable.
“I’d like to see more Tasmanians willing to talk about Aboriginal issues openly without fearing that they’re going to be called a racist, or pushed into a mould.”
The state’s political leaders, Indigenous elders, school groups, organisations, and members of the wider community gathered in Hobart for the launch.
Tasmanian Regional Aboriginal Communities Alliance co-chair Rodney Dillon said everyone needed to “paddle together to make change”.
“Our people were property owners, our people owned the waters – today we don’t own much of the property, and none of the waters,” Mr Dillon said.
“When resources are taken off our families, our people start to live in poverty … this is a starting point to turn these things around and make a better future for our people.
“We need to talk about the truth of history in this country, and we don’t do that well, we’ve packed away the truth of history and we need to unpack history.”
But Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre chief executive Heather Sculthorpe said symbolic recognition was not enough and that more action needed to be taken.
“With such good will for change to happen and with some work, it’s clear that there’s a lot of good will in the non-Aboriginal community for change,” Ms Sculthorpe said.
“So let’s hope that the new Reconciliation Council will indeed recognise the principle of Aboriginal self-determination.”
Tasmanian Governor Kate Warner said we owed it to those before us, and those who will follow us, to make the most of the opportunity.
“Reconciliation has been long and, at times, a very cruel and difficult journey for so many of us who love this island and what it has to offer,” Professor Warner said.
“It is a journey from atrocity and denial, to truth telling and recognition.”