National Reconciliation Week: A Personal Reflection Birthdays, Referendums, and Hope

National Reconciliation Week: A Personal Reflection Birthdays, Referendums, and Hope

I was born on the 14 October 1984, which just so happened to also be my Dad’s 40th Birthday. Every year on our birthday my Mum tells the story of how when in labour with me and on her way to the hospital, they came across my Dad on his way to fishing. Stopping and letting him know what was going on, he assured Mum he would be up at the hospital after a quick flick of the line – I mean it is his birthday after all – but thanks Dad! Mum gets to the hospital and after trying to convince them I was on my way, the doctors tell her that I’m still a fair way off. Returning to her room just moments later, my Mum has me cradling in her arms, looks up to the doctors – who are all wide eyed and jaws dropped – she says, “Can you hurry up and cut the cord, I want to go have a ciggie!”

The 14th October now not only holds these embarrassing but loving personal memories. Some new ones are now shared with the nation. In 2023, Australia went to the polls on that very day to vote in a referendum—a historic moment. The referendum aimed to change the Australian Constitution by recognising the First Peoples of Australia through the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Unfortunately, the referendum did not pass, but it remains etched in our collective consciousness.

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time when Australians come together to learn, reflect, and take action. This year’s theme, “Now More Than Ever,” resonates deeply. It acknowledges the millions who voted YES in the referendum and calls on all Australians—Indigenous and non-Indigenous—to continue the journey of reconciliation.

First Nations Businesses: Empowering and Self-Determination

One way of doing this is supporting the economic empowerment of Australia’s First Nations peoples. More and more there are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses being formed and contributing to the Australian economy, and even establishing micro-economies in some of the most rural and remote areas of Australia. 

Amidst the emotions surrounding the referendum, there was a shimmering spark at Welcome to Country. Our business experienced an unexpected surge in sales—a clear sign that Australians wanted to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses. Whether through purchasing products from Indigenous businesses or participating in cultural tourism experiences, people showed their solidarity.

The impact of First Nations businesses is remarkable. In 2022, they contributed to over 13,000 active businesses and corporations, generating $16.1 billion in revenue. These enterprises employ over 116,000 people and pay $4.2 billion in wages. [Reference]

Continuing the Journey

It’s important to acknowledge some Australian’s – especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – are still on a healing journey post-referendum and how they feel needs to be respected.

In saying this, when we reached out to some of the business owners, entrepreneurs and cultural leaders what they will do post-referendum outcome, their response was united and simple… “we will continue to do what we have always done – share our culture and create real opportunities for our people”.

This year on the 14 October 2024 my Dad, turning 80 years and myself turning 40 years old will mean I’ve lived half the life of my Dad. Talking about this with my Dad and he tells me more has changed for the better in the past 40 years of my lifetime than the past 80 years of his lifetime. This gives me hope.

This National Reconciliation Week and every day, let’s keep reconciliation alive, to share culture, and to work together—“Now More Than Ever.” Let’s honour the past, learn from it, and build a more inclusive future for all Australians.


Desmond Campbell (Gojok/Jangala) is a proud Alawa and Gurindji man from the Northern Territory and is the CEO of Welcome to Country. Welcome to Country is a First Nations led and operated social enterprise, led by its purpose to improve economic and social outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Welcome to Country has a targeted approach to increasing economic opportunity and independence for First Nations businesses, people, and communities.

National Reconciliation Week - Reconciliation Australia

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