The formal reconciliation process (1991-2000) was one of the most important national events of our time. After more than 200 years, it was recognised by government that a reconciliation process had never taken place between Indigenous Australians and the colonial descendants of this land and that it was desirable to achieve reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by the Centenary of Federation in 2001. However, what began as a process aimed at building a renewed relationship based on understanding, respect and equality, has ended in debate over conflicting views between the Australian government and Indigenous peoples as to what is considered important and necessary to the achievement of reconciliation.
On the one hand, the government believes that reconciliation will only be achieved through the removal of Indigenous social and economic disadvantage, allowing Indigenous Australians the opportunity to attain the same standard of living as other Australians. Central to the government's goal is the implementation of 'practical' policies and programs designed specifically to alleviate Indigenous disadvantage. On the other hand, Indigenous peoples claim that, in addition to practical measures, an understanding of the deeper, underlying issues of disadvantage is required, in particular, the recognition of Indigenous peoples' rights and status as the First Australians and their continuing relationship with the land, sea and natural resources.
Within an anthropological framework, this conflict represents a clash of worldviews between two culturally diverse peoples who perceive the management and use of land and resources in different ways. Any effort to achieve reconciliation, therefore, must take into account the different values held by both sides and must be based on the anthropological
principles of universalism and cultural relativism.