Reconciliation Week: 28 ways to play our part

From Truth Talking and keynote talks to kids' workshops, First Nations Arts Awards, exhibitions and First Nations theatre - we arm you with a swag of ways to take action for Reconciliation Week.

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is held between 27 May – 3 June every year. The dates are significant. They commemorate two milestones in the reconciliation journey – the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision, respectively.

What does change each year, however, is the theme.

For 2021 it is More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, urging the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action. 2021 marks twenty years of Reconciliation Australia.

The NRW website reminds us: ‘Reconciliation is a journey for all Australians – as individuals, families, communities, organisations and importantly as a nation. At the heart of this journey are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’

‘We all have a role to play when it comes to reconciliation, and in playing our part we collectively build relationships and communities that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories, cultures, and futures.’

Reconciliation Australia.

So to help you play your part, we have made it easy with this list of talks, exhibitions, performances and family events that you can support over the coming week. The list is extraordinary, displaying the depth, subtlety and sheer energy of Indigenous expression. 


2021 First Nations Arts Awards, presented by the Australia Council, recognise the outstanding work and achievements of First Nations artists. This year the Awards will be broadcasted on NITV and streamed online. Presented on the evening will be:

When: 27 May at 7.30pm.

Q&A panel: Our Country, Our Future, Our Shared Responsibility is a free online panel discussion with speakers Aunty Judy Atkinson and Uncle Richard Frankland, along with former AFL star, Australian of the Year recipient, and anti-racism advocate Adam Goodes. The event will be concluded with a performance by Archie Roach. Presented by Yarra Ranges Council.

When: 27 May, 10:00 am – 1:30 pm. Visit Virtual Event.

Installation view Big Weather, NGV Australia. Image supplied.

Kids: NGV exhibition, Big Weather reveals the intimate and sophisticated understanding of Country, weather systems and ecologies that exists within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural knowledge. Join Indigenous Art Curator Hannah Presley in a discussion for kids – with online sessions designed for children aged 2 – 5 years to try an art-making activity at home inspired by the exhibition using a downloadable NGV Kids activity sheet.

When: 3 June, 10:00 am – 10:30 am AESt. Details and register.

Keynote: Professor Marcia Langton will give the National Reconciliation Week Oration for the City of Melbourne. Langton is an anthropologist and geographer, and since 2000 has held the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne.

When: 27 May, 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm. Streamed online. Free.

Read: Five books in the spirit of Reconciliation Week

Film: The Virtual Indigenous Film Festival will present a collection of award-winning Australian films screened virtually throughout the week, followed by live Q&As with special guest speakers including filmmakers, community leaders and cultural academics. Choose your favourite film from the line up and purchase a single ticket, or grab an All Access Pass for a 50% discount for all 5 films! Official Film Festival Line Up:

  • High Ground – Thursday 27 May, 7pm AEDT
  • After The Apology – Friday 28 May, 7pm AEDT
  • Skin Of Others – Saturday 29 May, 7pm AEDT
  • Yulubidyi and The Moogai – Sunday 30 May, 7pm AEDT
  • Firestarter – Monday 31 May, 7pm AEDT

Talk for Action: Join Professor Tracey Bunda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit Academic Director; Michael Aird, Anthropology Museum Director; and artist Gordon Hookey in a Reconciliation action event at UQ Art Museum. You Can’t Ask That is an opportunity to confront stereotypes, prejudices, bias and discrimination head-on. Submit your questions when you register to learn more about past and present actions at UQ such as the protest marches in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The talk coincides with the exhibition,

When: 3 June, 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm AEST. Virtual event. Details.

Read: Exhibition Review: CURRENT AFFAIR: proppaNOW, UQ Art Museum (QLD)


Talk: Yuin Byalla In Burramatta / Truth Talking In Parramatta is a panel discussion that will feature award-winning writer Bruce Pascoe, astronomer Karli Noon, Australia’s first Indigenous youth-led climate network SEED – Youth Climate, and more. At Riverside Theatres, Parramatta.

When: 3 June, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm AEST. For details.

Exhibition:  Richard Bell: You Can Go Now will open on 3 June at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) – Bell’s largest Australian survey bringing together over 30 years of the artist’s practice. Bell is known for his artworks that challenge colonial positions, and advocate for action and change.

Events / Exhibition: The Australian Museum will showcase the cultures of First Nations peoples in a new series of talks, tours, and workshops to accompany its groundbreaking First Nations led exhibition, Unsettled. In this exhibition, First Nations’ voices tell Australia’s foundation story including First Nations resilience and survival. First-hand accounts are presented through historical documents, large-scale artworks, immersive experiences and never-before-seen objects from the Australian Museum collection.

When: 22 May – 10 October, check out what is on offer over this Reconciliation week.

Exhibition: WARWAR: The Art of Torres Strait was developed by Newcastle Art Gallery in collaboration with highly awarded artist and curator Brian Robinson. The Torres Strait Islander flag will also be raised at City Hall for the first time in the building’s 92-year history to coincide with the exhibition. Four years in the making, the exhibition includes over 130 works of art. Several pieces have not been seen outside of the Torres Strait, including new works from Badhulgaw Kuthinaw Mudh (Badu Art Centre), Ngalmun Lagau Minaral Arts (Moa Arts) and Erub Erwer Meta (Erub Arts).

When: 29 May – 22 August. A Curator and Artist Talk will be held on Saturday 3 July featuring exhibition curator Brian Robinson and local artist Toby Cedar in conversation with Newcastle Art Gallery Director Lauretta Morton.

Event: Myall Creek Commemoration – this year marks the opening of the new $1M Cultural Space adjacent to the Memorial. There will be a concert on the Saturday with traditional and contemporary Indigenous music, songs and dance. On the Sunday will be the commemoration ceremony. Henry Reynolds is guest speaker.

When: 12-13 June, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm AEST, Myall Creek Memorial on Bingara-Delungra road, Gladesville.


Exhibition: ANU School of Art & Design Gallery will present the exhibition Myall Creek and Beyond during Reconciliation Week – a touring exhibition that explores the history and site of the 1838 Myall Creek Massacre through the work of some of Australia’s leading indigenous artists, including Robert Andrew, Fiona Foley, Julie Gough, Colin Isaacs, Jolea Isaacs, David and Tim Leha with Quarralia Knox, Laurie Nilsen, Judy Watson and Warraba Weatherall.

When: Until 9 July.

MIlk, at The Street Theatre. Image supplied.

Theatre:  Canberra-based writer Dylan Van Den Berg, winner of the 2021 Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting at the NSW Premiers Literary Awards, brings to the stage the uneasy personal process of reconciliation in the production Milk. What are the complexities of aligning yourself with Indigenous legacies of resilience when you are also related to their oppressors?

When: 4-13  June, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, at The Street Theatre. Details and tickets.

Exhibition: Unbroken Connections, a solo exhibition by artist Megan Cope, featuring a new body of work as a result of her residency at the Canberra Glassworks in 2020 and 2021. It shows Cope’s exploration of the ongoing connections her People have with Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island); and wider Quandamooka Country, for thousands of years and the unbroken connections between family and country.  Cope also gives new life to 100-year-old dugong bones by casting them in glass; purposely heaping and gently lighting from below, creating a sense of reverence and memory for her people’s old ancestor Yungun (Dugong).

When: 20 May – 18 July, at Canberra Glassworks

Talk & Exhibition: Slide night and talk with celebrated Aboriginal Photojournalist, Mervyn Bishop at National Sound and Film Archive, to coincide with his major survey exhibition. As a young boy growing up in the western NSW town of Brewarrina, Mervyn Bishop began photographing family gatherings, friends and landscapes on his mum’s Kodak 620 camera. He then began hosting the backyard slide nights for which he would become renowned, telling the stories of his most recent adventures behind the camera. Join Mervyn as he re-creates his entertaining and fascinating slide shows as part of our National Reconciliation Week celebrations.

When: 28 May, 7:00 pm – 8:30pm. Ticketed.

Read: Exhibition Review: Mervyn Bishop, National Film and Sound Archive

Reconciliation Q&A Forum: The theme for NRW21 asks people to take the awareness and knowledge that recent events such as the Black Lives Matter movement and Invasion Day rallies have highlighted, and use it as a springboard to more substantive, brave action. The ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) will be hosting a Q&A Forum around this theme, featuring a panel including Deb Evans from the Tjillari Justice Aboriginal Corporation, Sharon Davis from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Tanya Keads from the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research and Professor Rae Frances, Dean of CASS.

When: 27 May, 9:30 am – 11:00 am. For details.

Talk: ANU Manning Clark Centre Hall, Kambri is hosting a panel discussion that will focus on the question, what could we change if First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians came together? What change could we effect if we considered and utilised our First Nations knowledge? How can we tackle our nation’s biggest problems including the treatment of women in society and the future of our health as a unified nation? Panelists include The Hon Linda Burney MP, Professor Rae Frances, Geraldine Chin Moody and will be chaired by Fran Kelly, ABC Radio National Breakfast host.

When: 1 June, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm GMT. Free. More details.


Installation view Confined 12, The Torch. Image supplied.

Exhibition: Organisation The Torch, Confined 12 runs 13 May through to 6 June at Glen Eira City Gallery in Caulfield as well as online via a virtual gallery. The largest exhibition to date with a record 378 artworks from 331 Indigenous artists from 16 correctional facilities across Victoria, creating a strong visual metaphor for the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system.  

Exhibition: Tracking a 15 year career that forces one to bear witness to colonial acts of displacement and experimentation on our First Nations peoples, Yhonnie Scarce’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) exhibition is a memorial long overdue. Born in Woomera – the Country of her ancestors from the Kokatha and Nukunu peoples and home to an experimental British space program in the 1940s – much of Scarce’s work has reflected on the impact of nuclear testing and the displacement and forced relocation of Aboriginal people from their homelands.

When: Until 14 June.

Read: Exhibition Review: Yhonnie Scarce: Missile Park, ACCA

Dale Harding, Extractive painting 2 2021, Kate Harding, Cylinders 2020 and Dale Harding, F1 (Saddler’s contract) 2020. Installation view, Dale Harding: Through a lens of visitation, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2021. Photo: Andrew Curtis.

Exhibition: A descendant of the Bidjara, Ghungalu and Garingbal peoples of central Queensland, Dale Harding’s multilayered practice is political with a focus on family, community and place. Through a Lens of Visitation explores the artist’s relationship to his mother’s Country. At Monash University Museum of Art until Saturday 26 June.

Image supplied.

Public Art: 2021 Reconciliation Digital Projections, at Geelong City Hall and the Barwon Water forecourt, presented in collaboration with The Torch.

When: 25 May – 6 June, 6:00 – 11:00 pm, daily. Free.

Family Event: Bring your friends and family for a morning filled with culture, art and wellbeing at McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery. Activities will include a welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony. Wayapa Wuurrk, Wellness Session with Karan Kent from Yimba Yumba and an all-ages Nature-based Art Activity with Rebecca Robinson, First Nations Education and Programs Coordinator at McClelland.

When: 29 May, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm. Free.


Film: Nunga Screen 2021 is a short film showcase held annually between Reconciliation Week and NAIDOC Week across South Australia hosted by suburban and regional venues. The screenings are a free community event that’s dedicated to bringing communities together to share in culture.

When: For Screening times and locations. Country Arts SA

Keynote: The Don Dunstan Annual Lowitja O’Donoghue Oration – organised by Reconciliation SA; Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue is an Aboriginal woman who has dedicated her life to improving the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She has been named Australian of the Year twice and was the inaugural chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. She was the first Aboriginal woman to be inducted into the Order of Australia and is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1999.

When: 1 June, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm ACST at Bonython Hall, The University of Adelaide. Event will also be streamed.

Rutjipma (Mt Sonder) Before and After, 2019, Vanessa Inkamala, Watercolour on paper. Image supplied.

Exhibition: For more than 70 years, artists from the Hermannsburg school of watercolour paintings have documented, celebrated and cared for the unique and beautiful country of Central Australia. This exhibition – Before and Now: Arrkurla nakala, kurunga lyaata-ntama – features historic watercolours from the South Australian Museum’s collection by the earliest Hermannsburg watercolourists including the celebrated Albert Namatjira, alongside contemporary watercolour works created by their descendants revealing the artists’ deep political and ecological concerns for their changing Country.

When: 27 May to 12 September 2021. Free.


TED Talk: ‘Two Worlds’ Ted Talk is spoken by Ingrid Cummings, a Whadjuk Nyungar woman from Perth WA. Cummings grew up in two worlds, the indigenous and non-indigenous Australia. This talk will propel us into our own reflections and experiences of ‘living in two worlds’ and how this can impact one’s sense of identity and belonging.

When: 2 June, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm AEST. Virtual event. To book.


Talk: Professor Marcia Langton has produced a large body of knowledge in the areas of political and legal anthropology, Indigenous agreements and engagement with the minerals industry, and Indigenous culture and art. Her role in the Empowered Communities project under contract to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and as a member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians are evidence of Professor Langton’s academic reputation, policy commitment and impact, alongside her role as a prominent public intellectual. Her 2012 Boyer lecture series titled The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom is one of her recent contributions to public debate. Join Langton for Breakfast and a conversation organised by Reconciliation Tasmania at:

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina