This story was originally published by New Times, the Synod of SA publication.
Adelaide West Uniting Church (AWUC) is collaborating with their local community to help transform their shared space with the Uniting College of Leadership and Theology, into a practical space of reconciliation. Adelaide West Uniting Church was recently awarded an Environment and Community Engagement Grant by the West Torrens Council to be used for community engagement around reconciliation. New Times spoke to Ruth Harbinson-Gresham, Adelaide West Uniting Church member and creative supervisor for the community engagement project, on how the church has engaged community and spent their grant money.
What motivated you to apply for the grant?
I believe an outward-focused church is an alive and growing church. Engaging with the community is a great start. When I was applying for grants, most of our ideas were centred on refugees and asylum seekers, reconciliation, and indigenous plants. We were awarded $2,900 by the West Torrens Council to create free community engagement opportunities.
What projects were you able to be funded through this?
Our main project is community engagement around (re)conciliation where we organise events, cook food using Indigenous spices, and hold workshops together with Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) in order to create art for our shared public space. I think the local council wants to see concrete art in public spaces made by, and for, the community. They love the idea of intergenerational activity where people can come together, learn and create permanent art for public spaces.
Originally, the grant outlined that it was to be used for paint-based activities but after a meeting with community representatives, it was decided to focus on more durable projects such as mosaics. The council accepted the proposal and now we have beautiful art and practical items, like our coolamon shaped fire pit.
The community engagement around (re)conciliation workshops have provided the opportunity for individual growth in understanding the impact of assimilation and colonisation on Indigenous families. That’s another big reason as to why we wanted to start this project.
Was there anything unexpected that came out of this experience?
Yes! Lots of interest from other congregations and from people messaging and posting on Facebook. People have been asking if there is a similar project being run in their area.
UAICC also want to progress and initiate more conversations around how we can formally recognise Adelaide West Uniting Church’s commitment to reconciliation.
This project has been so exciting and encouraging and now we’re thinking of extending it. One idea that has been gaining momentum from different community members is to send painted stones as a message of love to different leaders, communities, churches and Indigenous people in prison.
For more information about the ‘community engagement around (re)conciliation’ project and for how to get involved, please visit awuc.org.au or contact Ruth Harbinson-Gresham at the AWUC office on 8234 1199 or email firstname.lastname@example.org