TRUTH AND RECOGNITION
The controversy over the truth about Aboriginal history has focused more attention on a very important problem: how can and should historical difference be handled? To be more specific, how can a nation's peoples best negotiate their different historical narratives about the past? And how can or should the Australian nation state and its peoples address or work through the burden of the Aboriginal past? 1 There need to be social, economic, cultural and political mechanisms that enable individuals and communities to perform these tasks. 2 National reconciliation provided a useful framework for a good deal of this work and could be renewed if some aspects of its approach were revised and others strengthened.
In the decade-long work of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (1991–2000), reconciliation and historical understanding were seen to go hand in hand, and so history work—primarily in the form of telling and circulating stories about the past—was regarded as one of the principal tasks of the Council. It defined its historical goal in these terms: 'A sense of all Australians of a shared ownership of their history'. This was usually represented as 'shared history'. The Council presumed that Australia could only become a reconciled nation if both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples more or less adopted the same historical narrative.
The Council conceived of history in rather simple terms, regarding it as a single body of historical knowledge. The story the Council told would include empirically testable facts, especially the ones previously excluded