Members of our Diocesan community reflect on the recent Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan launch in St John’s Cathedral, sharing their highlights and learnings and how these will shape their work and ministry from here on in.
Phyllis Marsh – Learning Innovator – Indigenous Perspectives, WestMAC
To gather in a beautiful Cathedral and honour a coming together of people in the name of God, through the act of being together, was my highlight. I have come to understand that this is Dandirri (‘To Come Together’), and is what we practise at WestMAC. It was the highlight of the launch event for me, in defining this ancient word with ancient practices.
God’s love shines when we connect into our humanity. In practising our humanity, we connect to each other, seeing each other as brother or sisters in Christ. As Christians we are called to be stewards of divine properties, and for Christians human life is sacred. We practise divinity in how we practise our humanity. This for me is the importance of Reconciliation. As a First Nation MaMu woman and a Christian, I am reminded of this when I read Psalm 8.
At WestMAC we practise Dandirri, and the time I spent at the launch on Tuesday last week validated the work I have been called to do, adding to our journey in “Being Together”. I believe in an ancient Spirit, and this Spirit called out and the First Nations responded. The Spirit created this place and made it sacred. When new people arrived, they were disconnected from their humanity. I am called by that ancient Spirit to help people connect to their humanity. I call that ancient Spirit, God, and I am called to be a steward by his grace. Reconciliation brings us together!
Kelly Houston – Parish Liaison Officer, Finance and Diocesan Services Commission
The smoking ceremony and hearing the language of the Yuggera people were incredible. At one point, I closed my eyes and just listened to the language, feeling a connection to mother earth that I hadn’t consciously felt before. It was a beautiful moment to reflect on how grateful I am that the land is cared for and honoured so well by peoples from the oldest continuously living cultures.
Reconciliation is important for all Australians. We live on this earth together and work together to protect our communities, growing in life and faith. I see our Christian connection to Creation as similar to our First Nations peoples’ connection to Country, so why shouldn’t Christians value our land, sea and sky as fiercely as our First Nations people do? We can learn a lot from our First Nations peoples.
Following the event, I realised that I need to take more time to understand the histories of our First Nations peoples. So much of what they have been through and continue to contend with have benefitted non-Indigenous Australians historically. I feel quite naïve at times when I think about First Nations cultures, simply because I do not have a great knowledge or understanding. I am grateful that we have some amazing people across our Diocese who are open to sharing and helping people such as myself to learn and understand.
Fiona Hammond – Lay Education Project Officer, St Francis College
The Reconciliation Action Plan launch event held at St John’s Cathedral involved prep and post-event work for me, as I helped film the event, and was required to rush around a bit setting up. It was a genuine gift then, that during the service, I was able to stop and hear the testimonies of wise, faithful and strong women who continue to advocate for fairness for their families and communities, courageously sharing their stories while doing so.
Contemporary Christians inherit a confronting church history impacted by dangerous systemic power structures. These structure were dangerous to First Nations peoples who ‘inconveniently’ got in the way of the pursuit of “gold, gospel and glory”. It is crucial for us to understand the horrors that have been ostensibly committed in the name of Jesus, and to sort out for ourselves what we think about that. We need to be humble enough to sit with the ongoing pain of the massacres, stolen children and other atrocities committed for what was then communicated as a ‘greater good’. I happen to be on the ‘white’ side of this history, and have to realise and deal with the fact that generations of my family have benefitted from this history in this place.
And, so I must listen – find the hope in listening, the pain in listening and receive without interruption, the stories of systemic disenfranchisement and abuse, knowing that I am part of the system that continues to do these things. I am prepared to listen, without interruption, to be disturbed, to be humbled, to hear and be preached to by those whose experience makes them wise, faithful and strong.
Michelle Le Pla – Marketing and Communications Production and Traffic Manager, Anglicare Southern Queensland
The highlight of the ACSQ RAP launch event was seeing the Diocese’s commissions and agencies coming together in a safe and inclusive space, committing to take action to strengthen relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The welcome ceremony was colourful, from the heart and informative. The vibe from the attendees was positive and I felt privileged to be able to attend the event.
Reconciliation is about building a new future while addressing the past. It’s an ongoing journey, with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suffering from intergenerational trauma. Relationships need to be strengthened and nurtured and non-Indigenous Australians need to follow through with the actions that will help First Nations peoples heal from their trauma.
My key learning from the event came from Aunty Professor Boni Roberston’s speech, as she shared stories from the heart. She explained that healing needs to happen both ways, telling the story of how a once very young police recruit needed to heal many years after being complicit in forcibly removing her brother from their loving family. This story brought a tear to my eye.
Racism is incomprehensible and I cannot fathom how our First Nations peoples have been treated. The reality of what has occurred is horrific – the Stolen Generations, senseless torture, slavery, massacres and deaths in custody are things that cannot be erased from our history – nor should they be. For Reconciliation to happen, we need to allow space for the stories of those who are traumatised to be told.
The Rev’d Patrick King – Associate Priest, Holy Trinity, Fortitude Valley
As someone who has only recently arrived in this Diocese, I found it a very moving experience to be welcomed to Yuggera Country with a smoking ceremony, words, music and dancing. After five years living on Whadjuk Country in Western Australia, it’s good to be reminded that as well as moving Diocese, state and time-zone, I also have a new First Nation people to welcome me.
As Christians we are people for whom reconciliation is front and centre of our lives; without God’s reconciling work in the life, death and resurrection of Christ there is no atonement. Our great commission to live as Jesus’ body in the world means to continue to shed light on where God’s atoning work continues to be carried out among us. In actively taking part in reconciling work in the world, we join in with Jesus’ mission to gather all people to himself.
Aunty Professor Boni Robertson was inspirational in her reminding of us all that a document by itself does not facilitate or precipitate change, but rather it is the actions of willing hearts and minds that will serve both current and future generations. This was a bit of a jolt – what is needed, as Extreme put it, is “More than words”.
Peter Branjerdporn – Justice Unit, General Manager’s Office
I loved hearing the First Nations Aunties share their stories and challenge us to walk with them as I joined in the RAP lunch event online via YouTube. They spoke emphatically with such wisdom, yet with gentle spirits that have the power to bring us all together as one in Reconciliation.
Jesus taught us to love one another as he loves us. Reconciliation is one of the ways we can witness what God’s love is capable of – making friends through repentance and forgiveness. Non-Indigenous Australia needs to repent and seek forgiveness from First Nations peoples so we can walk in the light of the Gospel with integrity and sincerity.
The launch showed me that when we prioritise the voices of First Nations peoples, and treat our First Nations brothers and sisters with dignity and respect, then we can start to have a genuine conversation. For far too long, non-Indigenous Australians have set the agenda for them. In my Justice Unit role, I hope to play a bigger part in hosting spaces where the processes of truth-telling and healing can further unfold in and around our Diocesan community. I plan to look for more opportunities to amplify First Nations voices in our justice advocacy and community organising work.
Editor’s note: Watch the powerful addresses and hear the beautiful music from the RAP launch event on Cathedral YouTube. You can see and download the new Reconciliation Action Plan on the Anglican Church Southern Queensland website.Jump to next article