Uniting Church members in Victoria and Tasmania interested in developing a deeper understanding of the Covenanting relationship between First and Second Peoples are encouraged to consider participating in the About FACE program in January next year.
About FACE stands for Faith And Cultural Exchange and has been an activity of the Church since 1984. It aims to build meaningful relationships between Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) communities and Second Peoples.
Participants are encouraged to be actively involved in Covenanting and working together for reconciliation in the Church and the wider communities.
About FACE focuses on working collaboratively with all partners to ensure that the program is beneficial for everyone involved, from host communities to participants.
The Synod of Victoria and Tasmania is the lead synod in the program’s partnership, which involves both the Uniting Church Assembly and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
A decision was made to defer the mid-year 2017 program and the new program will be held from 3-20 January next year. Applications opened on Monday for the program.
Participants will not only have the opportunity to spend time within UAICC communities but will also be involved in the Congress national conference in Victoria, a unique opportunity.
About FACE co-ordinator Jill Ruzbacky said the program played an important role in building relationships between First and Second Peoples.
“About FACE has been an amazing program within the life of our Uniting Church for over 30 years, and we look forward to being able to continuing in that tradition in January,” she said.
“We are committed to making sure the program is an incredible experience for every participant, as well as for our Congress host communities.”
Ms Ruzbacky hopes people will tap interested parties on the shoulder “as history for the program has shown us that most applicants apply because they were personally encouraged to do so by someone close to them.”
Many positive stories have come from past participants in the program.
Hobart woman Margaret Collis spent time in northern New South Wales during her participation in the About FACE 2015. She said she was struck by the lack of blame for past white atrocities she felt was laid at her feet by Aboriginal community members.
“I have heard of places where some Aboriginal people are (understandably) still very angry with white people and want to hold it (what happened in the past) over them,” she said.
“But, that was not my experience. There were no accusations directed at us.”
She said it had been a privilege to learn from Aunty Di Torrens, who has been a UAICC member since the organisation was founded, chairperson of Congress NSW for almost a decade and one of the first five Aboriginal women to be an elder in the Uniting Church.
Adnyamathanha elder Rev Denise Champion, from South Australia, said About FACE was an important beginning point for people seeking to develop a relationship with the First People.
“They are adopted into our families and we welcome them to come back whenever they choose,’’ she said.
“It (the in-community experience) is just the tip of the iceberg but it makes it a lived experience which is life changing for many.”
Another 2015 program participant, Haileigh Childs, from Brisbane, said she – like so many other non-indigenous Australians – had little opportunity in the past to sit at the feet of Aboriginal people and learn more about their way of life.
But interacting via visits to such places as Wilpena Pound near Port Augusta – in the heart of country central to the Adnyamathanha people – and taking on many aspects of the cultural differences opened Haileigh’s eyes.
“I have heard Aboriginal people talking about their land but now I have heard their stories and seen their deep connection to that land,” she said.
“It has given me a broader understanding.”