2018 ANU Reconciliation Lecture

Presented by National Centre for Indigenous Studies


Mr Peter Yu will present this year's Reconciliation Lecture on Reconciliation, Treaty Making and Nation Building

Australia is a better nation than the political system which represents us. The failure of successive national governments and parliaments to forge pathways to recognise Indigenous peoples in the nation's Constitution is a failure of Australia's body politic. Peter Yu contends that constitutional recognition should not be viewed as another contentious issue - accompanied by political cajoling and maneuvering - to be ticked off along the linear trajectory of Australian nation building. It should be understood as fundamental to our moral and ethical national character akin to the tenets of the French Revolution - Liberty, Equality and Fraternity - and those self-evident truths consecrated in the American Declaration of Independence. 

Embracing Indigenous peoples in our Constitution is pivotal to a new relationship between Indigenous peoples and Settler Australians and a renaissance of the modern Australian State. Without this recognition the Australian nation remains tied to it colonial and bloodstained past. We are a nation denied the potential for a reconciled history after four decades of public discussion and advocacy.

The concept of Reconciliation has lost much of its potency because it has become all things to all people. Peter Yu argues that Reconciliation and the people's movement it sponsored must be renewed with a focus on its central mission; confronting and dealing with the truth of Australia's history. The principles of truth telling and agreement making, so eloquently expressed in the Uluru Statement, should become a grand national effort to transcend our nation's colonial legacy and settle the grief, hurt and discord that hinders our children's and their children's future . Such a national endeavour should be embraced by universities and civic society in a concerted partnership with Indigenous Australia. As Australia's foremost nation building university, the Australian National University should play a leadership role to renew Reconciliation and to forge pathways for a settlement of Australia's historic injustice.

About the speaker

Mr Peter Yu is a Yawuru Man from Broome in the Kimberley region in North West Australia with over 35 years experience in Indigenous development and advocacy in the Kimberley and at the state, national and international level.

He has been an advocate for the social, cultural and economic advancement and well being of Kimberley and other Aboriginal communities for his entire career. Over this period he has been instrumental in the development of many community based regional organisations.

He was Executive Director of the Kimberley Land Council during the 1990s and had a national leadership role negotiating the Australian nation's response to the High Court's 1992 Mabo decision.

Peter was a key negotiator on behalf of the Yawuru Native Title Holders with the Western Australian State Government and Shire of Broome over the landmark 2010 Yawuru native title agreement and is the current Chief Executive Officer of the Yawuru Corporate Group.

He is a Chair of the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA Ltd), Deputy Chair of the AFL Aboriginal Advisory Committee, Deputy Chair of Broome Future Ltd, a Trustee of the Princes Trust Australia (PTA) and Council Member of the Australian National University (ANU).