National Reconciliation Week

Alice YoungFrontPage, News, Pastor

This piece has been written by Elliot Keane, Baptist Mission Australia’s First Nations Engagement Facilitator. It’s an invitation to engage with National Reconciliation Week. The above photo was taken by Elliot of Uncle, whom he writes about in this piece.

As the sun sets over the low red sandhills just off the Borefield Road on Kokatha Country, I watch Uncle stand still, his silhouette black against the fading light. Ngooringa grow here, we usually call them Sturt Desert Peas. It’s dry country, but if you know where to look there are springs hidden amongst the channels that criss-cross the landscape like scars telling stories of past rains and ancient floods. The desert cold is already biting as the light disappears, it is going to be a chilly night in the swags. 

I wonder what Uncle is thinking as he watches the sun set on another day. He is a generous human and a great storyteller. There is always something to learn, as he weaves wisdom, ancient ways and the ways of Jesus into his stories. Sometimes he just sets you up for a laugh. You don’t have to listen too deeply to hear the scars in his stories. There is grief there. Loss and frustration and disappointment and difficulty have been consistent companions. I wonder as he watches the sun go down if he sees a hopeful horizon or just the darkness closing in.

Reconciliation Week happens 27 May – June 3 every year and marks the dates of the 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision. The invitation of First Nations people is to learn about their shared history, cultures and achievements, and to explore how we can all contribute to a flourishing future for all people in Australia.

The invitation of First Nations Christian leaders is to partner with them in working towards justice, reconciliation and hope. We do this by learning, supporting and partnering with them as alongsiders.

It starts with a learning posture, a willingness to come alongside, to receive the extended hand of friendship and to be led towards a new future. 

This year’s Reconciliation Week theme is Now More Than Ever. It calls us to join or rejoin the work of reconciliation, closing the gaps and working towards a more just and fair experience for First Nations people in Australia. After a difficult year, filled with painful moments and much disappointment for many, we are being asked to not give up on the important work that is still to be done.

Aboriginal Christian leaders continue to invite us to move forward with them, learning and partnering together in Jesus’ name. 

The first glimmer of sunlight colours the eastern sky. As we stand warming our hands beside the crackling morning fire, I watch as Uncle stands watching the light and feeling the warmth of a new day. As the desert horizons come into view, I wonder if he’s thinking of new possibilities, imagining a place of healing to be established, a community to be nurtured, people to be invited in. His life is marked by a generous love. He spends his time patiently teaching, gently inviting and courageously leading a community into a new way of life.  
As we head north on the dusty road, Uncle invites me into his imagined future, telling stories of what he hopes he will see.

He wonders who else might join this important work. Especially from the Church. He’s not the only one. Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls, famously said during a sermon from Acts 17, “we want to walk with you, we don’t wish to walk alone.”   Sir Doug, Uncle, and many other Aboriginal Christian leaders like them are inviting us to join them, now more than ever.How will you respond?  

As we listen, pray and act in pursuit of reconciliation, we join with our mending God whose heart is for healing, restoring love and justice.

With Jesus as our guide,

Elliot Keane
First Nations Engagement Facilitator