THERE are many health and economic indicators that demonstrate that indigenous Australians are still not getting the same opportunities as other Australians, but the crowd that attended the NAIDOC march yesterday indicates community support for the day and its principles is growing at a rapid rate.
When organisers realised they could not accommodate everyone in the civic theatre after the march they were understandably delighted with such a response.
Participation by hundreds of school children and adults from indigenous and non-indigenous backgrounds shows just how this celebration has become one for all Australians.
It will be the school students of today who will be working in areas like indigenous health and education and in public policy in the future, and for them the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia will be a very different one to their parents.
Many older people in yesterday’s march and opening ceremony will remember a long period in Australia’s history when the lives of Aboriginal people were managed and regulated by state and federal governments.
They will recall periods where government policies gave rise to the Stolen Generations, the battle for land rights and self determination and, belatedly, the national apology by then prime minister Kevin Rudd.
It was this formal apology that brought to an end any lingering sense of denial of what was inherently wrong with past practices.
In Orange today the progress in addressing past prejudices and inequities in services can be seen in the Aboriginal flag flying in front of our schools, the acknowledgement of country and prior occupation , hich opens many public functions, and in the growth of service providers like the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service.
There are still gaps to be closed in health care, education and employment and this will not be easy, but support for the place of Aboriginal and Islander culture in modern Australia will help bridge them.