Covenanting in the Uniting Church
The Uniting Church covenant relationship with First Peoples is at the heart of our Church. It is a commitment to stand with our First Nations brothers and sisters in Christ in their struggle for justice.
In 1994 the Uniting Church in Australia formally entered into a Covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress so that together we may contribute to a more just church and nation.
Ahead of NAIDOC Week 2021, the Assembly launched its first Covenant Action Plan, a practical framework which gives shape to our commitment as a national church to walk together as First and Second Peoples.
Our covenanting journey began with the coming together of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress
Through a series of gatherings in the early 1980s, a vision developed among Aboriginal and Islander Christians from across Australia to come together to form a National Congress. In 1985, the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia unanimously welcomed the formation of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC). READ MORE
Entering a Covenant
In 1994 the Uniting Church in Australia formally entered into a Covenant with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress so that together we may contribute to a more just church and nation. On behalf of the Second Peoples of the UCA, the Uniting Church’s 7th President Dr Jill Tabart read a statement acknowledging past wrongs and making a new commitment to the relationship. On behalf of First Peoples of UAICC, Congress Chairperson Pastor Bill Hollingsworth responded acknowledging past pain and looking to future with hope. He presented a Covenant Painting to the UCA. Read the Covenanting Statement
Acknowledgement and Apology - Stolen Generation
In 1996 the Assembly Standing Committee on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia acknowledged the trauma and ongoing harm caused by the racist policies and practice of separating Aboriginal children from their parents and community. Further the Church apologised to the Traditional Owners of Croker Island for taking over a large part of their ancestral lands without permission to provide care for children separated from their parents and for falsely leading them to believe that Croker Island would be their permanent home.
This acknowledgement and apology urged further action at state and national levels, and in 1997 the full national gathering the Assembly expressed its appreciation to Sir Ronald Wilson and Michael Dodson for the ‘Bringing them Home’ report and its recommendations. The Church committed to supporting the Report's recommendations, affirmed the 1996 apology and committed to advocate and act to seek justice, healing and reconciliation.
Preamble to the Constitution
In 2009 the Assembly of the UCA passed a resolution to revise the Preamble to the Constitution, acknowledging: Aboriginal and Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia; the tragic colonial history of injustice, violence and dispossession of First Peoples and the Church’s complicity in this history; the First Peoples had already encountered the Creator God before the arrival of the colonisers; the Spirit was already in the land revealing God to the people through law, custom and ceremony. Read the Revised Preamble.
The 15th Assembly of the UCA held in 2018 resolved “to affirm the First Peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal and Islander Peoples, are sovereign peoples in this land”. In recognising this fundamental truth, the UCA affirmed sovereignty as described in the Statement from the Heart, as a “spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land…and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”. Likewise it acknowledged that this sovereignty “has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.” READ MORE
Living out the Covenant
Uniting Church congregations and presbyteries are encouraged to build relationships with local First Peoples communities, acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which they meet at all gatherings and to work together for reconciliation with and justice for First Peoples of Australia.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Sign up to the Living the Covenant Locally - a grass roots movement, made up of congregations, faith communities, schools and agencies, who are growing in understanding, encouraging others, connecting with UAICC and/or other First Nations Peoples locally. Commit to undertaking study as a group. This website is full of resources to Listen and Learn, Go Deeper and Take Action. https://uniting.church/livingthecovenantlocally/
- Display a Covenanting Pull Up Banner - one way to acknowledge the First Peoples in your area is to display one of these banners acknowledging country and celebrating the Uniting Church's Covenanting relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
The Banner features the Covenanting painting received by the UCA's seventh President Dr Jill Tabart in 1994 from UAICC Chairperson Pastor Bill Hollingsworth. Find out more