“Our heritage as a nation began long before 1788. It began at creation,” Mr McMillan said.
“I am committed to honouring First Peoples as sovereign over these lands and waters, to recognising our nation’s brutal history and to a negotiated just terms way forward for us as a mature nation.
“May the Creator Spirit guide us to a maturity which recognises our past and enables us to embrace our future together as Australians.”
Mr McMillan, a Yolŋu speaker who is an adopted member of the Gupapuyngu clan of the Yolŋu Nations, says he will spend 26 January celebrating the survival of the First Peoples, mourning the lives lost, and praying for justice and reconciliation.
The Uniting Church in Australia made its official apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 1996 well over a decade before the Australian Government.
The Church added a Preamble to its own Constitution in 2010 to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of Australia and to confess the Church’s complicity in their dispossession and assimilation.
At its national Assembly meeting in 2015, the Uniting Church also committed to exploring what recognising sovereignty and Treaty with its partners in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress would mean for the Church.
A full transcript of President McMillan’s message is attached below. The message is also available on Vimeo.
TRANSCRIPT – 2017 Uniting Church in Australia Survival Day message
President Stuart McMillan
I’m Stuart McMillan, President of the Uniting Church in Australia speaking to you from Stanwell Tops in NSW.
I want to pay my respects to all elders past and present of the Dharawal Nations and to their descendants who have cared for these lands and waters since creation.
This is Yuróra 2017 – a national multicultural festival of faith for Christian youth.
It’s a community that represents the rich and vibrant cultural and linguistic diversity that is our Church and the Australian community today.
My hope for us as Australians is embodied in the passion of this community.
For the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples here January 26 marks their survival as the First Peoples of this ancient land.
Our heritage as a nation began long before 1788, it began at creation.
The First Peoples are the oldest living culture on the planet and that is something to celebrate!
So on January 26 I’ll celebrate the survival of my friends, their ancient languages, law and culture.
I’ll mourn the hundreds of thousands of lives lost through violent conflict and colonisation.
I’ll mourn the stolen generations’ disconnection from their heritage.
I am committed to honouring First Peoples as sovereign over these lands and waters, to recognising our nation’s brutal history and to a negotiated “just terms” way forward for us as a mature nation.
I call on members of the Uniting Church in Australia, and all Australians, to mark January 26 with respect and honour for Australia’s First Peoples.
May the Creator Spirit guide us to a maturity which recognises our past and enables us to embrace our future together as Australians.