Tag Archives: learning

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.

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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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Today would be a good day to be at Oxford

Perhaps some people who are new to my blog might find it a bit strange that I alternate between serious posts on social, theological or political issues … and well, travelogues. But I’ve often said two of the things I’m most passionate about are God’s Word and God’s world – and I’m always keen to explore how those intersect with my life and the issues of those around me. So today is Monday again, and therefore as I often do, I’m imagining a place I have previously visited and what it would be like to spend the day there today.

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I have lots of study to get done this week as I am heading off on some real life travels shortly. So today is just a short post for inspiration. If anywhere should encourage study, it’s Oxford!

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What did I love about Oxford?

All the Universities I have studied with have been great places of learning, but as relatively young institutions they just don’t have the “hallowed halls” of places like Oxford.

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My sister and I spent the day at Oxford a few years ago, and there was certainly a sense of being in another time, imagining life as a scholar in this place.

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It’s hard not to wonder about all the great thinkers who have passed through these doors throughout the centuries.

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I’d love to spend the day in just one of the libraries, discovering all the ideas and passions of those who have written in the areas I am interested in. For me, one of the joys of study is getting to “meet” people through their books!

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What did I learn from Oxford?

I am reminded why I am a lifelong student: because I love learning. I love discovering new ideas, sharing ideas with others, thinking about things differently, asking questions and seeking a range of possible answers, imagining new ways of doing things, and considering how I might be able to change my small corner of the world.

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Going back to study since lecturing has also helped me have some sympathy for the struggles of students – yes, sometimes it is hard to stay motivated, and sometimes it is hard to see how some things you are learning will make a difference to your life.

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But I have been to too many places around the world where education is denied to many, particularly young women, to take my studies for granted. Learning is a great privilege, and it can be part of both growing in understanding and being formed in character, if we let it.

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I also believe education brings a responsibility. I don’t study to amass knowledge for myself, but rather to be better equipped to teach and share and engage with others in ways that are helpful, inspiring and challenging, that they too might engage more thoughtfully with God’s world in whatever way they are called and equipped to do so.

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It’d be lovely to be learning at Oxford today, but really, it doesn’t matter if you are in a famous institution or in the school of life, or somewhere in between – if you are reading this it is likely that you have the opportunity to learn something today! I’d encourage you to be grateful for the privilege, and to consider the responsibility it brings to share with others as you can.