Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan has called for a national conversation on sovereignty for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in his Survival Day message.
Mr McMillan said 26 January is a time for Australians to reflect on the extraordinary courage and contributions of Aboriginal people.
“On this day, I encourage you to celebrate the resilience of our First Peoples, the Indigenous people of this land, who have survived the waves of colonisation which have swept over them,” Mr McMillan said.
Mr McMillan worked with the Indigenous people of Arnhem Land for more than 30 years. During this time, he was adopted into the Gupapuyngu clan of the Yolngu nation and learnt their language.
“Respect for First Peoples is the hallmark of a great nation, and it’s now time for us to follow through on our unfinished business with First Peoples,” Mr McMillan said.
“For Christians, Christ’s love compels us to be truth tellers, ministers of reconciliation, daughters and sons of peace, and bearers of light and love.”
In 2010, the Uniting Church recognised First Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of Australia and acknowledged the Church’s role in their dispossession.
At the 14th Assembly last year, the Uniting Church committed to ongoing discussions about sovereignty and treaty with its partners in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
“We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in their desire to engage the federal government on their just concerns for a treaty, denied for so long in this land,” Mr McMillan said.
“May God grant us the perseverance to carry forward these important conversations, working together with other Australians with a passion for Indigenous justice.”
You can view the President’s full message here.
A recent speech by Indigenous journalist Stan Grant on racism in Australia has gone viral on social media.
Mr Grant said “racism is killing the Australian dream” and that the legacy of Australia’s dark past still lingers today.
“We sing of it and we recite it in verse; ‘Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free’,” Mr Grant said.
“My people die young in this country. We die 10 years younger than the average Australian, and we are far from free. We are fewer than 3 per cent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 per cent – one quarter – of those Australians locked up in our prisons.
“And if you’re a juvenile it is worse, it is 50 per cent. An Indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school.”
Mr Grant also addressed the Adam Goodes booing controversy and its impact on Indigenous Australians.
“When we heard those boos, we heard a sound that was very familiar to us … we heard a howl of humiliation that echoes across two centuries of disposition, injustice, suffering and survival,” Mr Grant said.
“We heard the howl of the Australian dream, and it said to us again – you’re not welcome.”
Mr Grant urged Australians to acknowledge the racism lying at the heart of the Australian dream, so that the country can move forward and become a truly inclusive nation.
“One day I want to stand here and be able to say as proudly, and sing as loudly as anyone else in the room, ‘Australians all let us rejoice’.”