The opinions of Indigenous Australians viewed through a population lens: The Reconciliation Barometer

Author/editor: T.Rowse
Year published: 2021
Issue no.: 297


It is unavoidable that in discussions of Indigenous affairs we will refer to what Indigenous Australians think and want, but against what ‘evidence’ should we assess such representations? Since 2008 Reconciliation Australia has conducted a biennial survey, the Reconciliation Barometer, as a way to quantify Indigenous and ‘General Community’ opinion relevant to ‘reconciliation’. This paper examines findings on ‘historical acceptance’ and ‘trust’. Why does a minority of Indigenous respondents not assent to certain statements about Australia’s colonial history? The paper notes one likely explanation: the multiple meanings of ‘accept’ in the survey instrument. As well, the paper suggests that when respondents confront certain ‘factual’ statements their identities are engaged, influencing their answers. Noting that measured ‘trust’ has risen over the years, the paper speculates about several plausible explanations. Surveys such as the Barometer facilitate the disaggregated representation of what political rhetoric tends to aggregate – ‘Indigenous Australia’. The Barometer views ‘peoples’ through a ‘population’ lens.

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