Living Our Destiny Together
Written by Bec Beisler, Assembly Resourcing Unit
Hundreds of Uniting Church members across the nation marked a Day of Mourning this week to reflect on and lament the colonisation and violent dispossession of Australia’s First Peoples.
More than 50 Uniting Church congregations, as well UCA schools and aged care homes, took part in worship reflecting on our commitment to truth telling and justice for First Peoples.
In South Australia, on the lands of Kaurna people in Adelaide Hills, Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) Interim Chair Ps Mark Kickett hosted a Day of Mourning Service at Nunyara Conference Centre.
In his reflection, Ps Kickett reflected that as followers of Jesus, as we journey together as First and Second Peoples, we are called by God to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.
“What is our destiny together? It is one of hope. If we don’t have hope, as the Church, then who has,” said Ps Kickett. “It is our destiny to follow, not only to follow, but to be leaders. To take people on a journey in all matters that challenge humanity, therefore, to love, to be relational, to act justly to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God and with one another.”
Dr Palmer said the Day of Mourning was a time to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and present and to commit ourselves to take action to bring about a more just Australia.
“The renewed community we seek is possible when it is shaped by justice, truth-telling, confession and healing,” said Dr Palmer.
“As the Uniting Church we hear Jesus calling us into the light of a new shared community based on justice, love and mutual respect for one another.”
SA Congress leaders Rhanee Tsetsakos, Sean Weetra, Jordan Sumner, Tarlee Leonardis took part in the service and Uncle Frank Wanganeen offered the Welcome to Country.
Tarlee, who is Covenanting Officer for the SA Synod gave a response on behalf of First Peoples:
“We acknowledge the commonality that all First Peoples on this land share, that sovereignty has never been ceded.”
“Since time immemorial long before the arrival of Second Peoples our ancestors cared for and lived in harmony with this land.
“Hear our prayers for continued strength for our people, for hope and improved opportunities, for not just equality but equity as well to close gaps of disadvantage in culturally appropriate ways.
“We pray for truth-telling we hope it continues in our communities, in our schools in our workplaces and our churches.”
Advocate for the Assembly’s Walking Together as First and Second Peoples Circle and National Consultant, Covenanting, Stu McMillan said he was proud of the way the Church had come together to mark the Day of Mourning.
“Our hope for the Day of Mourning is that local faith communities will grow their understanding and will grow relationships with local First Nations Peoples community groups and individuals, together with local UAICC communities and members.”
“To watch the Nunyara service and see the growing relationship with Uncle Frank Wanganeen which has developed over the past couple of years particularly, is wonderful.”
“Uncle Frank is a Kaurna Elder from the Adelaide plains of South Australia. It’s in relationship and our walking together, that we show the light and love of Christ burns brightly amongst us,” Stu said.
Other services across the country were held in parks, Churches, schools and other locations.
Rev Niall Reid led a recorded service for Northmead Uniting Church opening the worship on Burramatta Trail on the land of the Darug People in Parramatta.
In a thought-provoking service, he encouraged participants to reflect on what the arrival of the First Fleet meant for the First Peoples of Australia.
“We were brought up to think of it as settlement, but the truth is, it was an invasion, colonisation.”
In Melbourne, around 50 members of Manningham Uniting Church gathered in Westerfolds Park in Templestowe on the lands of the Wurundjeri People.
Participant Ruth Hodges said the moving liturgy took place with “the sound of birds singing, the distinctive smell of the Australian bush and a friendly kookaburra overseeing proceedings.”
Rev Heather Hun at Koonung Heights Uniting Church in Melbourne said she led a reflection on being called to a new understanding about our relationship as First and Second Peoples.
Leichhardt Uniting Church included an interview with Nathan Tyson, NSW/ACT Relationship and Service Manager and First Nations man of Anaiwon and Gomeroi heritage.
Nathan said shared how the Day of Mourning is time for reflection on Australia’s true history, but also an opportunity to think about how we can change the future.
“There is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of inequity and injustice affecting First Peoples. There’s a lot we can do moving forward.”
Read more about the campaign launched by Nathan seeking support for the First People’s hopes for voice, truth and treaty contained in the Statement of the Heart.
The UAICC-UCA resource produced for the Day of Mourning included a number of prayers and reflections written by First Peoples.
Leprena UAICC Tasmania Manager Alison Overeem has offered an additional reflection for the Day of Mourning.
A Lifelong Journey of Shared Healing
In the sparkle of the ocean sits the stories of before
In the crashing of the waves sits our stories and our lore
In the whisper of the branches of the resilient tree sits the wavering stories of struggle and survival
In the sand and the land sits wisdom and truth, rich in the footprints of those now and before
With ancient wisdom calling to us as we take each step, to stop to listen and to connect
In the coming of the sun and the closing of the moon, sits the stories of our ole people, our elders and our ways of knowing and being
The sky holds stories to see hear and feel
Milaythina ningee calls us to hear the wisdom, but also to hear and feel the mourning
The call of the stolen, the cries of the dispossession and forced removal
The cries of broken promises and broken treaties
The mourning of the child removed from a mother’s arms, the warriors removed at the colonisers hands
We must call ourselves to mourn the loss, to connect with the narrative of these Lands, the grief that sits within the Lands and First Peoples
For if we do not connect with the mourning of loss, we cannot connect with the gifts that sit on and within Country …
To acknowledge the true history for First Peoples, in all its abundant gifts of knowledge and wisdom, is to also connect with the stories of truth telling
How can we mourn together if we do not connect with the narrative of the impacts of colonisation?
How can we truly seek justice if we do not hear and feel the stories of the Lands and First Peoples?
To deeply connect with our own narrative in all its truths and untruths, all its learnings and unlearning, is to challenge ourselves to connect with what the cries from the land, sea and sky are speaking to us, calling us to be past of the healing
Calling us to hear
Calling us to know
Calling us to grow
Calling us to faith in action
Calling us to justice
Calling us to heal the Lands
As we mourn
May we connect every day to the narratives that abound and surround us, that call us to the mourning, to seek and speak to justice for the Traditional Owners, the keepers of story, the protectors of Country
Be in the mourning
Be in the reconnecting to what that mourning means as we discern, as we seek justice and as we seek truth telling and as we feel the stories and heal together as First and Second People
Written by Alison Overeem