June 2, 2017
The Uluru Statement From The Heart can be found here:
A personal reflection on the Uluru Statement by ABM’s Reconciliation Coordinator Celia Kemp
This National Reconciliation Week the Australian church finds itself faced with a voice from the desert asking for change in the name of truth and justice.
We would have to be very ignorant of our own Scriptures indeed to dismiss it out of hand.
Over 250 First Nations representatives from language groups and cultures all over Australia have come together and chosen to collectively set out a way forward.
Their lyrical and powerful ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ is short, less than a page.
They speak about the Southern Sky and land, about sovereignty and powerlessness.
They call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice in our Constitution and a Makarrata Commission (the word means the coming together after a struggle) to supervise agreement making between First Nations and the Government and for truth-telling about history.
‘In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard’ they conclude.
This last part seems too obvious to need saying.
But it does need saying for hearing takes time and a willingness to be changed by what we hear.
It is not an easy thing and we don’t do it very well.
This has been starkly evident in some of the early responses to the Statement.
Some have seen fit to dismiss it within days.
There has been a strange tendency to focus only on what particular figures tell us will be accepted by ‘the Australian people’ rather than on the content.
And as though ‘the Australian people’ have had a fixed view across time.
As though there is no prospect that ‘the Australian people’ will be changed in any way by listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.
I don’t believe this.
I wonder if those so quickly dismissing it don’t either.
Perhaps it is precisely because the statement is so powerful, because of who has said it and what they said and where they said it, that it has prompted some to such a hasty rejection.
As a church we have committed to standing in solidarity with those without power (the third Mark of Mission).
I believe that this is a time when the church needs to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices.
We can do this by reading and carefully considering the Uluru Statement by ourselves and in our churches.
We can do this by speaking into the wider community about the importance of listening deeply and well to this Statement and allowing ourselves to be changed by it.
For if we filter everything Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people say through a lens of ‘is it immediately acceptable to me’ then reconciliation is meaningless.
And should our own National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council decide, over time, to consider and respond to this statement, we will need to listen very closely to what they say the church should do about it.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
– Isaiah 43:19