It is National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) which blends beautifully with what Belinda wrote about last week in reference to the BBC program ‘The Repair Shop’ particularly in regard to connections made with the past and the idea to ‘live by mending’.
Last Monday was the ACT’s second Reconciliation Day public holiday but what real ‘connections’ or ‘mending’ were we conscious of to make it a day promoting Reconciliation with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community? I walked last Friday (with a few other Canberra Baptists!) across the ‘Commonwealth Bridge’ to mark the celebration of Sorry Day as promoted and organised by the Winnunga Nimmityjah Health Centre. The speakers shared their pain about the removal of Aboriginal children, some shared their own stories of being removed from their family, and others talked about the alarming statistics that in the twelve months from 2016-17 and 2017-18 the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in the ACT increased from 202-235, an increase of 16.4%, the highest rate per capita in Australia. It represents 10% of all Aboriginal children in the ACT and, given that the ACT has not endorsed the Aboriginal Placement Principle as recommended by SNAIIC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Care), it looms as a critical and very real issue about which real ‘mending’ begs to be done. We could also mention that the ACT has the highest ratio of Aboriginal people in prison.
Common Grace, a movement of Christians passionate about promoting the ways of Jesus, is initiating a campaign this year for Reconciliation Week called ‘Grounded in Truth’. Reverend Samuel Dinah (a Nyoongar Elder southwest of WA, one of the Stolen Generation, and a Prison Chaplain) was interviewed by them and gave a summation about what Truth needs to be told still about the Stolen Generation. He said, ‘The three R’s: Recognition, Rehabilitation and Restoration’. Recognition is about learning about the Aboriginal peoples. Rehabilitation is about seeing us all as people created in the image of God and through that empowering the community. Restoration is about bridging the gap and working together as one nation in sharing this beautiful country and ensuring what happened will not occur again. In regard to Reconciliation Week, said Rev Dinah, this is a time to remember and to act on those three R’s and, like God’s grace which is with us all the time, Reconciliation should be with us all of the time too, not just in the week. His final call was to keep listening both to the Aboriginal people and to God.
Bianca Manning, a Gomeroi woman living and studying in Brisbane, shared a prayer which I include here: Loving God, we thankyou for who you are and boldly come before you this Reconciliation Week, knowing that you care, knowing that you see us, and have always seen us and been with us since the beginning. Creator God, you placed Aboriginal peoples on these lands now called Australia as your chosen custodians … our hearts grieve what has been lost, stolen and abused, and the way this impacts every aspect of our lives today … guide all people into your heart of compassion and empower us to love with actions and in truth …
For truth is needed before we can reconcile.