Walking Together as First and Second Peoples

Love is always born

Walking on Ngarrindjeri Country tour leader Sean Weetra from UAICC SA and Nicole Mugford at the NYALC Day of Mourning service

By Stuart McMillan, Walking Together as First and Second Peoples Advocate

I write this in the season we call Advent, meaning ‘coming’. A time according to the Church Fathers for people to fast, give and pray. A time of contemplation and reflection [1].

Gayle Boss [2] says: Beyond uncertainty, fear and darkness, know ‘the one thing necessary’ – that there is One who is the source of all life. One who comes to be with us and in us, even, especially, in uncertainty, darkness or even death. One who brings a new beginning.

Our walking together as First and Second Peoples is anything but certain and so I’d encourage us all to take the time this advent in contemplation to know again, to know in a fresh way, the One who brings new life. The One who teaches us to see in the darkness, to trust and take his hand.

For a number of Uniting Church young adults, the year began gathering on the sovereign lands and waters of the Ngarrindjeri Nation in the Coorong, South Australia, ahead of the National Young Adult Leaders Conference. Their walking on country highlighted the importance of these experiences in our covenantal journey. The intercultural insight of this experience was beautifully captured in Joy Han’s reflection. The participants also gained new insights into the Creator Spirit’s presence with First Peoples, as our preamble says, before the colonisers arrived. Truly an advent experience for these young people.

In other parts of the nation we have stumbled in our walk, indeed at times we have failed to walk together and failed to take the hand of the One who can lead us and teach us to see in the darkness, who helps us to know beyond knowing there is new life. Advent calls us to the quiet place and invites us to “be still and know that I am God”, that ‘I am Waŋarr, the Creator of all things’ (in the Djambarrpuyŋu language, NE Arnhemland).

Recently a writer’s workshop of First and Second Peoples was coordinated by Rev. Dr Vicki Balabanski in South Australia. Something as ancient as this land and something as new as the Uniting Church was birthed in this time of sharing deeply. Something is ‘coming’…..

Gurrutu, family,

I like Leunig who urges us to be revolutionaries:

God help us to change.
To change ourselves and to change our world.
To know the need of it. To deal with the pain of it.
To feel the joy of it.
To undertake the journey without understanding the destination.
The art of gentle revolution. Amen.

And then he speaks of the ‘coming’, of advent:

Love is born
With a dark and troubled face
When hope is dead
And in the most unlikely place
Love is born:
Love is always born.

I wish you all this Advent and Christmas season, the liberating hope of Christ, new beginnings.


[1] Taken from Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation Week 49, Darkness, 2019

[2] Gayle Boss, ‘All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, Paraclete Press ©2016