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?