Today an article that I wrote for ABC’s Religion and Ethics went live. I can’t imagine that it’s going to make me particularly popular…
Australia Day is an interesting one. There are so many opinions in the public but also the private space – the things we tend not to say.
My main point of this article is that on Australia Day, many Australians will choose to celebrate with Aboriginal spirituality – with its rituals dominating public space in similar ways to how Christianity used to. Initially, this seems like a challenge to Australian Christianity, but if you understand that 73% of Aboriginal Australians self-identify as Christian, this seems like an opportunity for the Australian church.
You can read my article here: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2016/01/25/4394002.htm
Two years ago, I was invited to attend Yabun Festival in Sydney’s Victoria Park at the invitation of the One Good Day Mount Druitt Indigenous Choir, a social outreach of Initiative Church in Blacktown. These kids are revitalizing the Dharug language through song – but also sing and dance to pentecostal songs in the public square.
Similarly, Pauline Scott-Terrare leads the Biddigal Performing Arts Academy in Cairns. A committed Christian, she is helping to engage Cairns youth in traditional and modern forms of dance and storytelling. These kids have a bright future.
It seems that Welcome to Country ceremonies have now been integrated into most Australian public schools and council meetings.
And there is a deeply spiritual aspect of pausing to acknowledge the land on which we stand, and the people who have lived on and cared for it. It helps us to engage creation more fully, and to better understand and honour Australia’s long history.
But the question is posed time and time again: is it possible to participate in Welcome to Country (and also many smoking ceremonies) as a Christian? While Aboriginal leaders can be divided on this, many are integrating traditional practices into their Christian worship – even inside evangelical and pentecostal denominations that traditionally resisted this expression.
Thanks to the help of Brooke Prentis who also allowed me to include her comments.
I’ve also included Pauline Scott-Terrare’s full comments with her permission below.
Friend, I ask for your prayer (or good hopes or something) in regards to this article, that it would not be received as an insult or complaint against Australian Christian leaders who serve the church faithfully, but that it would be seen as opportunity to embrace truth, and to move towards a real reconciliation and forgiveness.
Pauline Scott-Terrare, Mulunjali clan under the Bunjalung nation
When my grandparents were born, they were made to live on reserves or missions. If they were fortunate to work, they only received a small portion of their wages, the majority of it was put into a State Trust in which they had to apply for their money stating reasons why they needed their wages. When my grandmother met my grandfather and they fell in love, they had to write to seek permission from the government to marry.
When my parents were born, they too were not considered to be a part of the human population. Still being made to live on missions, if they died, their estate would automatically be transferred back in the hands of a public trustee.
When I was born, we could now live where we chose, but in Queensland we were not allowed to own our own property and we could not vote.
Today, in 2016, under the law in New South Wales, the majority of Aboriginal artifacts are “property of the crown”. So we still do not have ownership of our tangible history, and what our ancestors created.
This is just SOME of what we have lived through.
I’m in my early 40’s. My parents are in their early 60’s. And my grandmother is now in her 80’s. We have what you would call, a “lived experience”. We have seen one law for Australians, and another law for us. I STILL see, one law for Australians, and another law for us.
On the weekend just passed, there were two incidents that occurred:
First, a woman assaults a security officer who then places her under a citizens arrest as she has committed a criminal offence. The police however, took her details and released her.
Second, a woman is in her home with her family. Police arrive, enter the home on an alleged report of domestic violence and arrest her 16 year old son. Police have arrived at the wrong address and there is no case of domestic violence. The woman who is frantically trying to stop the arrest is struck five times in the throat by a police officer (who is there on this alleged report of domestic violence) and is then arrested. A 2 year old boy is left in the home attended.
First: Woman is white Australian.
Second: Woman is Indigenous Australian.
January 26th is a date that is synonomously connected to the British landing in Australia. The flag that is flown on January 26th is a flag that has the Union Jack which represents the United Kingdom, the Federation Star represents the federation of the white colonies of Australia on 1 January 1901, and stars representing the Southern Cross constellation. This is all highly representative of white Australia, there is no inclusion on the flag, or in the date, that represents or is inclusive of Australia’s First Nation’s people.
With everything I have said, I see Indigenous Australians as an afterthought, I see Indigenous Australians are not included, I see Indigenous Australians are treated differently by the law. I do not sing the National Anthem, I do not fly the Australian flag and I do not celebrate Australia Day.
I DO however, believe God put my ancestors in this country, I believe that God has a special purpose for Indigenous Australians, I believe in the principles of spiritual gate-keepers of the land (Psalm 24:7). When Australia seats Indigenous Australia at the forefront of discussions, when Indigenous Australia stands in her position as a generation who seeks Him, then the King