There will be a distinctly Canadian flavour to the Uniting Aboriginal Islander and Christian Congress (UAICC) National Conference starting this Saturday in Geelong.
Visiting keynote speaker Harley Eagle will talk about the experience of the Indigenous peoples in Canada as a way of helping the First Peoples of Australia reflect on their story of colonial occupation.
Mr Eagle, who is a member of the Whitecap Dakota First Nations Reserve in Saskatchewan, will lead group discussion over a number of sessions on the theme: “Trauma and healing: lessons from Canada”.
The conference, hosted once every three years, will focus on a “holistic” approach to ministry that addresses the injuries and injustices of colonisation.
Adnyamathanha woman Denise Champion and Adelaide College of Divinity senior lecturer Dr Liz Boase will lead three Bible studies that explore some of the biblical resources around healing and recognising trauma – both personal and communal.
Mr Eagle will draw upon his experiences in the groundbreaking role of cultural safety facilitator for Island Health in Courtenay, British Columbia, where he initiates and implements cultural safety practices and values throughout the organisation.
He has also held leadership positions on indigenous issues for the Christian-based service and relief organisation, the Mennonite Central Committee in Canada and USA.
In July last year UAICC members and representatives from Assembly took part in a three-week exchange trip, organised by the United Church of Canada.
The Uniting Church representatives learnt of the forced assimilation of indigenous children through Canada’s residential school systems, and many noted the parallels with Australia’s history of the Stolen Generation.
The Uniting Church will host a Canadian delegation of Indigenous representatives in March.
During the upcoming five-day national conference being held at the Geelong Grammar School, the 138 attendees from around Australia, which includes 70 delegates with voting rights, are expected to discuss the history, role and ongoing vision of the UAICC.
Among the other items business will be the installation of a new UAICC president, discussions on sovereignty and treaty as well as a day trip to the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
Congress will also consider the question of marriage ahead of the Assembly meeting’s deliberation on the matter in July, following the legalisation of same sex marriage in Australia.
UCA President Stuart McMillan will attend for the entire UAICC conference duration, while Synod of Victoria and Tasmania moderator Rev Sharon Hollis will be there for Saturday’s opening worship and Sunday’s proceedings.
During the conference Mr McMillan intends to record a Survival Day message to be shared on Australia Day.