First and Second Peoples in the Uniting Church have marked the 10th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations by calling for urgent action on sovereignty, treaty and Indigenous education.
President of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Rev Garry Dronfield said the Apology shows that Australia can address past and present injustices.
“This was a moment of healing in our nation’s history,” Mr Dronfield said.
“It also sent a message of hope for the future as we work towards treaty and sovereignty.
“We must not forget that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the members of our Stolen Generations and their families, continue to feel the pain of the past.
“This anniversary of the Apology should remind us all of the journey that we are on together. As the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, we see the hope of a positive future under God’s direction with the guidance, support and commitment of all our communities.”
The Uniting Church made its formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 1994, following the release of the landmark Bringing Them Home report by Mick Dodson and former UCA President Sir Ronald Wilson.
Current UCA president Stuart McMillan has apologised again for the Uniting Church and its predecessors’ part in that pain.
He acknowledged the continuing hurt experienced by First Peoples and members of the Stolen Generations.
“At the recent Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress National Conference we heard stories told through showers of tears about the painful memories of the past,” Mr McMillan said.
“There is still so much more we have to do to truly correct the wrongs which former prime minister Kevin Rudd acknowledged, and to give hope for healing.
“The National Apology included commitments about ensuring this never happens again and a commitment to closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.
“The latest Closing the Gap reports have shown that we are not on track in life-expectancy, literacy and numeracy, school attendance and employment.
“I believe we need a comprehensive education plan which addresses all the shortcomings and fragmentation that exists in Indigenous education.
“That plan should provide access to secondary education in remote communities and appropriately funded Indigenous boarding places which are able to address the complex needs of students.”
Mr McMillan reminded Uniting Church members of the special Covenanting relationship between their church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, forged at the time of the Church apology in 1994.
“In the words of the original Covenant, we must recommit ourselves to building understanding between First and Second Peoples in every locality and to build relationships which respect the rights of First Peoples to self-determination,” Mr McMillan said.
“In this our fellowship will be a witness to God’s love for all.”