Tag Archives: Australia Day

Beyond #changethedate, how do we #changetheheart?

Here we are again. January 26. A day on which I am often tempted to engage with all kinds of ideas and questions and debates. Last year, I posted about some of the things that I have learned over the last couple of decades that have led me to think we need to #changethedate.

But this year, through listening to some of my Aboriginal sisters and brothers I have learned it is so much more than that.

We need to #changetheheart in order to #changethenation. 

Because in terms of the big picture, the reality is that since this time last year, nothing has really changed. Australia still has the world’s largest life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people. A Human Rights Report Card released this month gives us a dismal F-minus for progress on indigenous rights this year. And changing the date will not itself change these realities.

Hearing again the statistics leads me to mourning and despair again. But I also know that my own heart has been softened, challenged, and broken further over this past year. And that is probably a good place to start.

This year I’ve tried to open my eyes to see the First Nations people around me in my city, to appreciate what I have to learn from them and to be confronted with the suffering too many of them are enduring.

While in Israel in April, what I saw challenged me to recognise myself as someone who lives on a land that is not my own, and to consider what it would mean in practice to identify myself this way.

After coming home, I took some time to read through and reflect on the Uluru Statement from the Heart. How can I respond to its calls for truth telling and walking together?

In June I was challenged to learn each day of National Reconciliation Week, hearing and sharing some of the horrific stories of the history of our nation’s response to our indigenous people.

In October I had the privilege of standing side by side with Aboriginal Christian leader Brooke Prentis as our church accepted her hand of friendship as we continue to journey in listening to our Aboriginal sisters and brothers.

This week I attended a service of Lament and Prayer and joined with indigenous and non-indigenous sisters and brothers in hope for a better future in this land.

I don’t list these things to make it sound like I have achieved anything or arrived anywhere. Each of these have been simple and small steps, and I have still have so much to learn.

But I want to keep challenging myself, and I want to challenge you, to keep taking steps of friendship and reconciliation. To let my heart and not just my head be impacted by what this day means for First Nations peoples and so to grow in understanding, respect and acknowledgment.

These are the things that have been changing my heart and I hope there are more to come. What is changing yours?

Photo of Common Grace #changetheheart flyer for 2019 prayer services
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When you can no longer say ‘I didn’t know’ … it’s time to #changethedate

Thirty years ago today, I was a schoolgirl standing in the crowds around Sydney Harbour watching a re-enactment of the landing of the First Fleet 200 years before. I didn’t know then that at the same moment, the largest protest in Australia since the Vietnam War was happening just down the street.

I didn’t know then that the day I had been singing about as the “celebration of a nation” was for many others felt and remembered as “Invasion Day”, “Day of Mourning” and “Survival Day.” 

I didn’t know then that the Prime Minister was making a promise that day that there would be a treaty with our indigenous peoples within two years, a treaty that has still not eventuated, making Australia the only Commonwealth country without one.

I didn’t know then that sixteen years earlier, a tent embassy had been established outside Parliament House as a response to our nation’s refusal to recognise the rights of our indigenous peoples. I had caught a glimpse of that tent while on a school excursion two years prior, but I certainly hadn’t been told what it was or had that story included in our introduction to our country’s (white) history.

I didn’t know then that fifty years earlier, Aboriginal men had been locked up at the Redfern Police Barracks stable and then forced to be unwilling participants in an (inaccurate) re-enactment of the events of 150 years prior.

I didn’t know then that the mortality rate of indigenous children in Australia is twice that of non-indigenous children, or that there is a life expectancy gap of between 10 and 17 years.

I didn’t know then the words “stolen generations.” I had never heard them and would be horrified to discover what they mean.

I didn’t know then a single Aboriginal person. I hadn’t heard their stories, been welcomed onto their lands, been embraced by their communities, sung together as sisters and brothers, learned from their incredibly rich and diverse cultures.

And I didn’t know then that as well as my First Fleet ancestors whom I was taught to take such pride in, I have ancestors who participated in massacres of indigenous Australians. That this, too, is my history.

I didn’t know then. But I know now.

And now that I know, I can’t find today a day of celebration.

Now that I have learned, I can’t pretend that this doesn’t affect me or touch my life.

Now that I have listened, I can’t ignore the pain and hurt that has been shared with me by those who carry it.

That’s why I believe it’s time to #changethedate.

 

*Just to be clear, I do think 26 January should continue to be a day on which we acknowledge and remember the troubled history of this land and consider how we can work towards greater reconciliation and justice. But I think we should choose another day for our National Celebration Holiday.

My Australia Day thanksgiving

I have the privilege of living in a land that is home to the world’s oldest living culture.

My country’s indigenous people have been storytellers for thousands of years, a rich tradition that inspires and instructs me as I seek to be a good teller of truth through stories.

Communities across this land have shared some of their unique songs with those of us who have come here more recently, enriching our experience of the great diversity of music.

The peoples of my nation have been custodians and caretakers of the land in a way that encourages and challenges my own care for creation.

My continent has hosted around 700 indigenous languages, weaving a rich tapestry that intrigues me and provides great insight for those who study the history of linguistics. The modern revival of some of these languages is a testimony to their people’s diligence and resilience.

I have personally been welcomed without question into the homes and campfires of strangers through mutual friendships and even embraced by being given a Warlpiri skin name.

The indigenous cultures of my home maintain a deep and abiding spirituality that confronts my tendencies to the novel and the superficial.

Many of the people groups of my homeland have embraced the gospel, enculturating it in ways that demonstrate new facets of God’s grace and glory to me.

This January 26, I am thankful for all the richness, beauty, culture, and knowledge that my indigenous brothers and sisters have and can share with me.

Today is a complicated day, for some observed as Invasion Day, for others lamented as a Day of Mourning, for others commemorated as Survival Day.

Last night I attended a beautiful service of prayer and lament, acknowledging our history as a nation, naming the injustices that have been and are being done, and recognising the ongoing consequences for indigenous people of our failure to address them. We need to walk and work together to bring change. I hope I can find ways to be part of bringing this change.

In response, for me today is not about celebrating or commemorating, but about naming some truths that are too often overlooked. I live on and in a land that belonged to others, and they have much to teach and bless me with. I am thankful for them and for how their story has enriched my life.

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