The President of the Uniting Church in Australia Stuart McMillan has called on state and federal governments to speed up negotiation of treaties that recognise Indigenous sovereignty.
In a video message released to coincide with the 26 January, Mr McMillan urged all Australian governments “to give First Peoples a voice into the political processes which affect their lives.”
“First Peoples in Australia have not only survived but they have withstood injustice and today stand proud.”
Since 2015, the Uniting Church has been exploring what recognising sovereignty and treaty for its partners in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
Mr McMillan’s message references the words of Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody song From Little Things Big Things Grow about Vincent Lingiari and the Wave Hill walk off:
“…power and privilege cannot move a people, who know where they stand and stand in the law.”
In 2010 the Uniting Church added a Preamble to its Constitution 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.
Mr McMillan said that the Uniting Church stood proudly alongside First Peoples in their pursuit of justice, particularly the brothers and sisters of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).
Recalling the words of UAICC founder Rev Charles Harris, Mr McMillan said there was still so much work to do in advocating for peace and breaking down the walls of racism.
TRANSCRIPT – 2018 Uniting Church in Australia Survival Day message
President Stuart McMillan
In their song about Vincent Lingiari and the Wave Hill walk off, Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody wrote these words:
“This is the story of something much more, how power and privilege cannot move a people, who know where they stand and stand in the law.”
It’s Survival Day 2018. The First Peoples in Australia have not only survived but they have withstood injustice and today stand proud.
Power and privilege couldn’t move Uncle Vincent and it won’t shake the resolve of First Peoples to stand together in the call for treaties in this their land and for their voices to be heard.
The Uniting Church in Australia stands with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and all First Peoples.
In 1982, at this place, Crystal Creek just north of Townsville, Indigenous Christians from around the country gathered in an act of self-determination.
The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress – an autonomous, Indigenous body within the Uniting Church – was born.
The Reverend Charles Harris invited church leaders to develop an Australian theology related to Indigenous issues; to challenge churches to take action; and to develop a Christian commitment to the struggle of the oppressed people of Australia.
Charles Harris sent people out with the stirring words:
“History has been created. God’s purpose has been fulfilled. Be advocates for peace. Let us break down the walls of racism. As we go forward, the gates of hell will not prevail against us.”
Thirty-six years later we still take inspiration from these words… and there is still so much work to do.
On this Survival Day I call on all Australian governments, state and federal, to give First Peoples a voice into the political processes which affect their lives.
I call on all Australian governments, as a matter of urgency, to hasten the negotiation of treaties for the sovereign First Peoples of this land.