Last week we embraced National Reconciliation Week at Frontier Services. As an agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, and an organisation that continues working with First Peoples across Remote Australia, we took it upon ourselves to learn more about Reconciliation, to reflect on the knowledge we’ve acquired to date, and to actively participate in meaningful discussions that will help us to evolve.
We were troubled to learn that ‘Research by Reconciliation Australia suggests that almost one in three Australians refuse to accept historical truths about the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the fact that they were subject to mass killings, incarceration, forced removal from land, restricted movement and prevented from using their languages’.
Together we must continue to learn more about our history and take the journey to Reconciliation. Here are some of the activities that we took part in.
Collaboration for a new Australia
We invited those of our neighbouring agencies (Uniting Church National Assembly and Uniting World) to come and watch a short talk by Ingrid Cummings.
Ingrid is a Whadjuk Nyungar from Perth WA. She has grown up in two worlds, the indigenous and non-indigenous Australia. Despite her painful trauma as a child, she found herself and spread the word of two worlds collaborating to make a new Australia. Understanding and embracing her culture and getting an education from both worlds has made her see the potential our nation has to make Reconciliation not a talking point, but a reality.
You can also watch this short talk below.
Reflections from our National Director
Our National Director, Jannine Jackson spoke directly to those who follow us on social media. She reflected on feeling uncomfortable and shocked by some of the recent learnings and experiences she had been through. She talks about her hopes and prayers, and how education can bring us closer to reconciliation.
You can also watch that video here.
Engaging with strong female Indigenous Leaders
To help broaden our knowledge we spoke with one of our Indigenous Board Members, Auntie Dianne Torrens. Also the chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) NSW/ACT region, Auntie Dianne shared what Reconciliation meant to her, and where people can go to broaden their knowledge of Reconciliation.
You can also watch that video here.
Attending External Reconciliation Events
Our staff were out across Sydney, learning from others to broaden their knowledge. This included attending a Q&A session with Aboriginal film producer, Mitchell Stanley on his film ‘Servant or Slave’. He was being interviewed by Auntie Susan who is a part of the Stolen Generation. Susan was taken from her family when she was just months old.
Our National Volunteer Coordinator, Michelle McLeod, also attended a special Reconciliation Week Sunday Service at Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney to reconnect and learn with those whom she recently travelled with during the “Walking On Country” trip. The service provided a platform to share stories learned from the Wiradjuri people, during Walking On Country in Wagga Wagga, with their congregation.
(Image from Left to Right – Rev. Dr. Margaret Mayman, Rev. Clare Brockett, Auntie Dianne Torrens UAICC, Michelle McLeod Frontier Services, Gillian Hunt)
The focus moving forward from the Uniting Church in Australia
The Presidents of the Uniting Church in Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress have urged congregations to find out more about the history of Indigenous people in their area during Reconciliation Week.
“Reaching out to local First Peoples and listening to their stories is the first step towards reconciliation,” said UCA President Stuart McMillan.
“Acknowledgement of country is a widely accepted practice in Australian public life, so I’m shocked at the number of people who are unaware or sometimes even deny basic facts about First Peoples.”
You can read the full statement from Uniting Church in Australia, National Assembly here.
You can also read the joint Uniting Church in Australia, National Assembly/Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) media release on Reconciliation Week here.
We also spoke with the UAICC President Rev. Garry Dronfield who said:
“Reconciliation is a process about healing between second and first peoples and this can only occur when we have relationships and conversations. It is about understanding what Aboriginal people have been through and working towards a positive time. It is this that we call reconciliation. A time of action.”