Deciding on a National Reconciliation Week theme every year takes collective thought, discussion and consideration about how to drive reconciliation ever forward. But 2023 added another level of complexity, with a national referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament occurring in the latter half of the year. With National Reconciliation Week 2023 happening between 27 May and 3 June, we knew that debate, discussion and passion around the referendum would be high — and that our theme would inevitably be seen in this context.
With the complexities of the year in mind, it was important that whatever theme we chose for 2023 spoke to the potential referendum, while also being broad enough to encompass the five dimensions of ‘reconciliation’ generally (Race Relations, Equality & Equity, Historical Acceptance, Institutional Integrity and Unity).
In 2022 Carbon Creative worked with Reconciliation Australia to encourage all people to ‘Be Brave. Make Change.’. In 2023 we wanted to call on all Australians to act today to tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation.
Carbon Creative worked closely with Reconciliation Australia to develop a National Reconciliation Week 2023 theme. Over a series of co-creation workshops we looked at key messaging for the theme, how much we wanted it to align with the referendum, and how the theme could stretch strategically into a series of actions and events throughout National Reconciliation Week, and beyond.
Together, we wanted the theme to be a warm and positive call to action that spurred people into action, speaking both to reconciliation generally and the referendum specifically. And we wanted it to acknowledge the work of generations past, and prompt current generations to continue that work for the benefit of generations of the future. Now was the time.
Reconciliation is all about building a better nation. An Australia that believes in the right of First Nations peoples to make decisions about their lives and their communities. An Australia that stands opposed to racism, inequity and injustice. An Australia that will ‘Be a Voice for Generations’. Our theme was born, and our strategy set.
To ‘Be a Voice’ for reconciliation today means the start of real change tomorrow. It means amplifying the calls of past generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that have fought hard and paved the way. And it means using your power, your words — and your vote — to create a better, more just Australia for all of us.
But how should the campaign look? At a time when multiple messages surrounding the referendum would be out in market we wanted to create a bold, simple, positive, key visual and look and feel that would help the message stand out.
To do this we created a hero ‘lock-up’ for the theme that combined bold type with the word ‘VOICE’ highlighted in a speech bubble against a pattern created by Bidjarra and Wakka Wakka artist, Danielle Leedie Gray, that visually suggested giving voice to First Nations people. The speech bubble graphic device was then deliberately graphically linked through the speech bubble tail to the word ‘generations’, so it became quite literally the voice of generations.
The result was a bold, effective and scalable campaign that was brought to life across TV, posters, outdoor, trams, radio, digital, social and a huge number of downloadable shared assets.
As we anticipated, the campaign grew a life of its own, extending far beyond National Reconciliation Week itself. ‘Be a Voice for Generations’ became a catch-cry for Reconciliation Australia and supporters of reconciliation as the date of the referendum grew closer. Embraced far and wide, the campaign earned countless dollars in unpaid PR and featured on people’s social timelines, screensavers and email signatures around the country, and prompted conversations around the country.
In the wake of the unsuccessful referendum result, Reconciliation Australia has taken comfort from the fact that the huge audience that engaged with the 2023 campaign are still there — and are more determined than ever to continue the fight for a more reconciled country.
‘I wanted my artwork to complement the theme and reflect the fact that, as a country, we need to work together in unity, and allow everyone to have a voice so we can all feel at home.’
- Danielle Leedie Gray