The end of Reconciliation Victoria

While federal and state governments focus on the need for state-based reconciliation groups to bring better understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Reconciliation Victoria Incorporated (Rec Vic) will have to close in July due to a lack of funding.

A Rec Vic statement says that at a joint May 14 meeting of the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD), Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Rec Vic, the state Labor government confirmed that it would stop funding Rec Vic.

Rec Vic was established seven years ago in response to recommendations from the Council of Australian Reconciliation. It has received just $200,000 a year from DPCD. Rec Vic provides community education, information and initiatives to shift racist attitudes regarding Indigenous Australians.

Rec Vic says reconciliation essentially means "closing the gap" — doing away with social indicators that divide Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Rec Vic also says that, after 220 years of colonialism and the suffering it has brought Aboriginal people, reconciliation should primarily be the responsibility of non–Aboriginal people.

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation Victoria has called on the state government to commit to, and increase, funding for Rec Vic.

Rec Vic CEO Frank Hytten told Green Left Weekly the government's key argument for withrawing funds from Rec Vic was that it was implementing its "Closing the Gap" policy through direct grants to Indigenous community organisations. A DPCD statement said $56.1 million would be allocated in the 2009-10 budget to "further close the gap on Aboriginal health outcomes and to improve Indigenous business leadership and protect important cultural heritage".

Hytten supports this funding but also suggested extra programs were needed to tackle common misconceptions of Aboriginal people, which were a key contributor to poor health.

Lack of government commitment to Rec Vic contradicts research demonstrating the link between racism and the poor health of Aboriginal people.

Professor Fran Baum, co-author of the recent In Our Own Backyard study into racism and health, wrote on her blog on March 26: "The goal of closing the gap in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is unlikely to be met unless racism is tackled."

Sixty-five percent of participants in the Adelaide Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Health Study said racism impacted negatively on their health. Only 7% reported that they had never experienced racism in a formal or informal setting.

The report also found that the higher degree of illness among Indigenous Australians is due to unsupportive environments that encourage unhealthy behaviour, not lack of knowledge with regards to health issues.

Rec Vic has played a critical part in helping bridge the culture gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Its loss of funding is a step back for Aboriginal rights.

[For more information on the campaign to save Rec Vic, visit or email]