The plight of the Indigenous Australians continues to be overshadowed by modern economics, politics and “progress.” We share with you these resources in the hope that you will learn more about this situation, the history and tragedy and the current work towards reconciliation, and hold the peoples of Australia in prayer.
“If you have come here to help me,
you are wasting your time…..
But if you have come because
your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.”
Brisbane based Aboriginal educator and activist
(Action for Aboriginal Rights web site)
“Without the land we’d be lost people.
It’s a spiritual thing.
That’s where you’re born… that’s very sacred.
That’s your spiritual home ’til the day you die.”
– Banjo Clarke
“The Australian Aboriginal probably arrived [on the Australian continent] around 60,000 years ago and is thought to have the longest continuous cultural history in the world. They had a… society which existed in harmony with nature without ever destroying their environment, food resources and themselves for thousands of years.”
“The Aboriginal myths about the creation of the world have been an important part of Aboriginal culture for thousands of years. These stories come from a time long, long ago (well before the dawn of time) called the Dreamtime.”
“One of these is the story of Wanmirri who, with his three brothers, learned how to light the sky at night so no-one need be afraid of the dark. These four young men of the tribe threw their boomerangs into the campfire where they caught alight. Then they hurled their blazing weapons into the sky where they and their four owners have been lighting the night sky ever since. This is how stars were put in the sky.”
For more Aboriginal sacred stories visit http://www.sacred-texts.com/aus/peck/index.htm
The Aboriginal Flag
“The Aboriginal Flag was designed by Harold Thomas, an artist and an Aboriginal, in 1971. The flag was designed to be an eye-catching rallying symbol for the Aboriginal people and a symbol of their race and identity. The black represents the Aboriginal people, the red the earth and their spiritual relationship to the land, and the yellow the sun, the giver of life.”
On May 26, 1997, the Australian Federal Parliament examined a report that has greatly impacted the view of Australians and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people of this nation. The Bringing Them Home report detailed the abuse that was perpetrated on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities through the removal of children from their families. The report also recommended that a “Sorry Day” be held each year to recognize the pain that Indigenous Australians have experienced. Communities throughout the nation hold Sorry Day events annually on May 26. Many now refer to the day as a “Day of Healing.”
National Reconciliation Week
National Reconciliation Week, initiated in 1996, follows Sorry Day and offers people across Australia the opportunity to focus on reconciliation, to hear about the culture and history of Australia’s Indigenous people, and to explore future endeavours to achieve reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians.
National Reconciliation Week enables the nation to celebrate two other significant achievements in Australia’s history that has brought a nation closer to significant improvements in Indigenous rights: May 27 marks the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum in which more than 90 per cent of Australians voted to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Indigenous Australians; and June 3 marks the anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s judgment in 1992 in the Mabo case which recognised the Native Title rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the original inhabitants of the continent, and overturned the myth of terra nullius – that the continent was empty, unowned land before the arrival of Europeans in 1788.
Apology before reconciliation?
“The ‘stolen generations’ were taken away by force from their families and their country. The agony and the pain carried across generations of Aboriginal families as they still come to terms with the trauma of forced separation is well documented in the report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
“While it is true that non-Indigenous children were also forcibly separated from their families and face traumas that are no less debilitating, no other groups in Australia suffered forced separation in the systematic and systemic way that Aboriginal people did. Aboriginal people suffered under these laws and policies for a sustained period and the damage struck at the very heart of our culture, threatening our very existence.
“To say that Australians of today had nothing to do with the policies of bygone decades confuses the issue in relation to where responsibility should fall for making decisions that resulted in generations of Aboriginal kids being stolen. I suspect that what we are seeing is an attempt by those who were responsible, by virtue of the office held and the power to make decisions, to seek refuge behind voting Australians. The question needs to be asked about how informed voters were on the policies and laws that underpinned the separation of Aboriginal kids from their mothers. Many had no idea these terrible things were taking place.The focus needs to turn to senior government administrators, religious leaders and those who made laws to enable these distressing events to take place. So who’s reconciling to whom about what?
“I say that an apology has to be made and it must be an apology from the Prime Minister in his capacity as Prime Minister, not merely a personal apology. Numerous people in this country, especially Indigenous leaders, have made this call.”
– by Ribnga Green, from Halls Creek, Western Australia and a member of the nation of Jaru peoples, whose traditional land is in the southeast part of the Kimberley region. Mr. Green isa student in law at Flinders University, South Australia.
The Uniting Church of Australia provides resources for the Week of Reconciliation. Pentecost often falls in or near the week, so the following resources prepared for 2006 focus on the theme of unity as celebrated at Pentecost. http://www.covenanting.unitinged.org.au/index.cgi?tid=45
Genesis 11: 1-9 The Tower of Babel
Acts 2: 1-21 Pentecost
Prayer of Confession and Petition
We live in a land where diversity has been a reality and a practice for millennia.
Over two hundred languages and over four hundred nation-groups lived in this land before the arrival of the First Fleet. We have not always honoured that diversity and sought to make all one like the leaders of Babel.
Have mercy, O God.
We live in a land where God has always been present and gave the peoples of this land an important custodial role. We have not always recognised your gift to and relationship with the Indigenous peoples of this land.
Have mercy, O God.
We live in a land of great abundance which sustained the Indigenous peoples of this land for millennia. But now Indigenous peoples have the worst health outcomes in the developed world and live, on average, twenty years less than their non-indigenous brothers and sisters.
Have mercy, O God.
We seek your forgiveness for our blindness and deafness to your word in this land and your peoples in this land.
Assurance of forgiveness:
My sisters and brothers, the Scriptures assure us that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to God’s self, not counting our trespasses against us, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So, in the name of Christ, I declare to you that our sins are forgiven.
An Affirmation – The Declaration Towards Reconciliation (2000) by the former Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
We, the peoples of Australia, of many origins as we are, make a commitment to go on together in a spirit of reconciliation.
We value the unique status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original owners and custodians of lands and waters.
We recognise this land and its waters were settled as colonies without treaty or consent.
Reaffirming the human rights of all Australians, we respect and recognise continuing customary laws, beliefs and traditions.
Through understanding the spiritual relationship between the land and its first peoples, we share our future and live in harmony.
Our nation must have the courage to own the truth, to heal the wounds of its past so that we can move on together at peace with ourselves.
Reconciliation must live in the hearts and minds of all Australians. Many steps have been taken, many steps remain as we learn our shared histories.
As we walk the journey of healing, one part of the nation apologises and expresses its sorrow and sincere regret for the injustices of the past, so the other part accepts the apologies and forgives.
We desire a future where all Australians enjoy their rights, accept their responsibilities, and have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
And so, we pledge ourselves to stop injustice, overcome disadvantage, and respect that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the right to self-determination within the life of the nation.
Our hope is for a united Australia that respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and provides justice and equity for all.
Prayers for the People (from the Ecumenical Service on St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney on 28 May 2000 after the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk as part of Corroboree 2000)
O God, in this time and place, you have called us to pray for our nation and for our journey towards reconciliation.
God of all nations, we recognise the growth in relationships between Indigenous and non-indigenous people. Lead our nation into more just ways of living together, so that all may enjoy their proper share in the good things, which you give us in this land.
For this we pray.
God of all nations, lead us into more just ways of living together.
God of all cultures, we thank you for the diversity with which you have gifted Australia. Reconcilie those of us who feel hostility towards others in our society because of the dispossession and violence they have suffered.
For this we pray.
God of all cultures, reconcile your people.
God of wisdom, help us to acknowledge the truth of our history, especially that which we consistently deny because of the powerful consequences for us all. Inspire us creatively to choose more just behaviour.
For this we pray.
God of wisdom, help us to acknowledge the truth and to act justly.
God of the future, grant us the ability to recognise that the way forward lies in letting go. Grant us the capacity to work towards more just relationships between Indigenous and other Australians, for all may participate in decisions that affect their lives.
For this we pray.
God of the future, grant us the ability to let go in order to develop more just relationships.
Reconciling God, grant us the heart to persevere with our struggle for honest and lasting reconciliation – a continuing process that does not compromise our integrity regardless of the cost to our pride, our economy, our collective identity as a nation. God open us to hope.
For this we pray.
Reconciling God, grant us the heart to persevere with the process of reconciliation in our nation.
God of compassion, we commit ourselves anew to reconciliation and pledge ourselves to peace and justice in our daily life and work. Give us all the strength we need to forgive others and continue to walk side by side into the newness of a justly reconcilied Australian community, which embraces difference and honours the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Words of Mission
Who on the day of Pentecost sent your Holy Spirit to the disciples
With the wind from heaven and with tongues of flame
Sends us out in the power of your Spirit to be witnesses of your ministry of understanding and reconciliation in this land.
In the name of the Christ. Amen.
We’re Standing Here on Holy Ground
We’re standing here on holy ground, on land your hand has made;
Your art displayed in timeless rocks, in purple haze and space;
Its might gums and feathery ferns your beauty magnify.
Tread softly then, in awe reflect, and listen to the land.
We’re standing here on holy ground, on land which ancients trod.
They wrote your law in hills and streams, in rocks and caves and trees;
A law to tell us who we are, to guide and make us strong.
Tread gently then, respect the earth, remembering whence we’ve come.
We’re standing here on holy ground, on land where blood was shed.
How can we live in peace when guns have seized and ruled the land?
The dead shall not have died in vain; their rights shall be upheld,
And ancient wrongs shall be forgiven as present wrongs we right.
We’re standing here on holy ground, on land that toil has shaped.
Its fertile plains will feed us all when tilled with care and love.
But mindless greed and drought and flood wreak havoc in the land.
Then let us tend with love the earth that’s fed us faithfully.
We’re standing here on holy ground, on land we long to share,
Where each has space and equity, and neither want nor fear.
But demons fierce are dancing here of race and greed and hate.
Engrave upon our wills, we pray, your ancient covenant law.
We’re standing here on holy ground, we seek your rule on earth;
Your will be done in politics, in law court, market, church;
Your gentleness among us reign, and each one dwell secure;
May generations yet unborn live here in harmony.
Copyright John P. Brown May 1996
Permission is given to copy for free distribution with these lines attached
The Gobledales serve the Common Global Ministries Board at Churches of Christ Theological College (Seminary) in Australia. Currently, their son, Mandla, attends Occidental College in Los Angeles, and their daughter, Thandiwe, has begun a 2-year appointment with Global Ministries at the Family Village Farm near Vellore, India.