Tag Archives: Peace

Why Australia deserves a Truth Commission

All Together Now’s volunteer Erika Rodriguez explores the possibility of a Truth Commission for Australia

As a Latina from the U.S. who only recently moved to Australia, I don’t pretend to know everything about the struggle of First Nations People, but my experience does give me an unfortunate familiarity with systematic racial discrimination and injustice. Regardless of my cultural background, as a human being I believe that after years being tortured with massacres, shootings, beatings, theft of their children and land, poisonings, and deaths while in custody, the First Nations People of Australia deserve a chance at peace, to live their lives free of discrimination and racism, and to have their stories accurately heard and documented. Many organisations have been working to research and report accurate information on this history that has been kept out of Australia’s history books, such as The Guardian’s interactive map of “the systematic process of conflict and expansion,” but there is still much left to be done.

The United Nations’ legal definition of genocide reads:

“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part 1; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

The forced removal of First Nations children from their parents and placement into white homes and the large-scale massacres and other atrocities committed during and after the invasion of Australia are all blatant examples of genocide. It is important that the facts and stories are recorded and available so that racial discrimination, hate, and trauma does not continue to affect future generations, such as the PTSD and nightmares that children of victims of the Rwandan genocide are facing now 25 years later.

As my Master’s Degree in post-conflict peacebuilding has shown me, in many areas of the world that are dealing with post-conflict societal repair, truth telling is a complex and challenging concept and the processes and proposed outcomes may be overwhelming or seem out of reach. Many question whether society could handle hearing all of the brutal details of killings that occurred, wondering if it would feel like rubbing salt in open wounds, create further division, or cause more hurt for the community and the younger generations. Some also consider the idea that documenting these atrocities would officially admit to committing acts of racism and abhorrent human rights abuses by a nation that is now internationally considered to be safe and successful. People often don’t want to believe the worst, especially about the country they call home.

These concerns, however, are meager compared to the proposed benefits of an official truth-telling body, and demonstrated successes that they have had in other areas of the world such as South Africa and Timor-Leste. The First Nations communities could finally have their documented accounts recognized, a true and accurate description of what happened could be updated into school curriculum, a platform for healing of those affected could be opened, and those who are unaware of the details could then have the archives available. These recognitions and progress in human rights could ultimately contribute to an international example of reconciliation for Australia.

According to Reconciliation Australia’s 2018 report, an overwhelming 80% of Australia’s general population “believe it is important to undertake formal truth telling processes in relation to Australia’s shared history.” Considering the resources and international support that Australia has access to, there is no reason that a truth-telling body should not be established. Doing so has the potential to take a step toward combating the systematic racism that continues today, and finally releasing the tight grip that White Australia holds around First Nations communities and their history.

Let us know what you think in the comments. Is truth-telling an important step toward reconciliation and healing for Australia?

Build Peace Conference 2015

On April 25-26th the Build Peace Conference 2015 was held in Nicosia (Lefkosia), “the last divided capital in the world,” Cyprus. The conference brought together like-minded individuals and organisations to learn from each other how contemporary technologies can be used for peace building.

The setting for this amazing function was to be within the UN administered zone Ledra Palace, on the Turkish Occupied side at the Bedestan and Buyuk Han and within some very modern centers in Greek-Cyprus at 10:10 and CVAR.

There were individual talks, short talks, Q&A sessions, working labs, panel discussions and multiple receptions and the 250 participants were able to interact and gain knowledge on the various projects happening in different contexts, under extreme technology constraints, including: how to use social media to the most benefit; how to entice Users to participate; and how not-for-profit organisations can achieve maximum success to attain their peace outcomes.

From All Together Now’s perspective the discussions and talks on social media, Peacebuilding: A Hands-On Experience presented by Derek Gildea from PeaceTech Lab and issues about changing behaviours through ICTs was particularly useful. Another area of interest and indeed the most surprising and astonishing was during the Build Peace Conference artist space  Together SeparateContesting Space. The art project run by Jason Meek and Roseline de Thelin used movement and dance to interpret and understand what living divided can mean for either side of the divide. It encouraged participants and watchers to see the importance of culture and what it means to a community. This engagement made not only the situation in Cyprus clearer but also to understand migrant communities and cultural interaction on a larger social scale.

The conference also saw All Together Now accept the PEACEApp award for the Everyday Racism mobile phone app, which was sponsored by UNAOC and Build Up.

All Together Now would like to thank PEACEApp, Build Up, UNAOC, UNDP and Games for Change for their support of the Everyday Racism mobile phone app and the continued support and mentoring they will give in the months and years to come. All Together Now cannot wait to release the next version of the Everyday Racism app and we will ensure to keep you updated on the development of this new educational app for primary schools.

        2015-05-03 17.26.47       PEACEApp ceremony

All Together Now would also like to congratulate the other winners and wish them the best of success in their peace building efforts.

For anyone within the field of peace building who would like to apply for this award in 2016 you can do so through their PEACEApp website: http://www.unaoc.org/peaceapp-blog/peaceapp-now-open-for-submissions/