Walking Together as First and Second Peoples

National Reconciliation Week 2020


Foundational to the Uniting Church is our commitment to being a “fellowship of reconciliation” that reflects the reconciling and renewing work of Christ in the world (Paragraph 3 Basis of Union).

During this National Reconciliation Week, with the theme of “In this together”, there are opportunities for us as the Uniting Church to affirm our covenant relationship as First and Second Peoples and to strengthen our actions for justice, healing and reconciliation. “At the heart of the journey of reconciliation are relationships between the broader Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” (Source: National Reconciliation Week website)

In February of this year, it was a joy for me to visit the Leprena centre in Tasmania, a centre of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. Leprena speaks of a being a ‘living narrative: sharing story, sharing struggle and sharing healing” of First Peoples”.

I had the wonderful opportunity to walk on country with our Congress leaders, Alison Overeem, and Grace and Ayla Williams. We were graciously welcomed to country and into a cleansing, healing space. Alison shared some of the story of Fanny Cochrane Smith and her church. We travelled to Tranquil Point and heard stories of First Peoples in that place. Alison, Grace and Ayla shared their living narrative of struggle, the call to justice that we need to hear and act on, and their stories of healing, light and hope. They invited us to “continue to walk together, hearing, sharing and respecting stories of First Peoples, embracing the gift that First Peoples’ history and culture is in the life of the Uniting Church.”

Each of us are called to contribute to the shaping of an Australian nation, which tells the truth of our history of colonisation, of First People’s dispossession, the devastating effects of colonisation on the First Peoples of this land, and the injustices that have been and continued to be perpetrated.

We need to address racism in our everyday lives and call it out.

This week is also an opportunity to celebrate First Peoples, their culture, law and custom, their connection to the land, and their resilience and survival as the oldest continuing culture in the world. This week is a celebration of the gifts, culture, stories and way of life that First Peoples bring in shaping 21st century Australia.

Adnyamathanha woman and UCA Minister Rev Denise Champion speaks of sharing the stories of First Peoples that invite us into “the long memory of God in this land.”

I invite you to take time in this week and beyond to listen to and hear the stories of First Peoples, who are your friends, neighbours, colleagues, classmates and members of our Church.

Reconciliation grows as we deepen our relationships as First and Second Peoples, and appreciate what we bring to each other. Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, a former Moderator of the UCA Northern Synod, a senior elder and Indigenous rights advocate writes: “We the Aboriginal people are a gift to the land and to the people who come here. You who have come here these last 200 years are also a gift to us. Justice, honesty and genuine reconciliation is the result when we have respect and honour for one another.”

As the Uniting Church, we acknowledge that as First and Second Peoples, ours is a “destiny together” – acknowledging the wrongs of the past and the present and committing ourselves to take action to bring about a more just Australia. We hear Jesus calling us into the light of reconciliation.

As we actively engaged in the process of reconciliation, God calls us toward and gifts us with a new human community of mutuality, dignity, care and compassion, and a respectful and deepened relationship with this ancient land.

Grace and peace,
Dr Deidre Palmer

Watch the video of this message below.


Reconciliation is a word that is used widely. It can be used in a variety of situations, but of late is often used in the context of first and second peoples and where colonisation has impacted first peoples globally.

Reconciliation in the New Testament is not a religious term, but rather a political one, where it refers to disputes resolution. So one could speak of the diplomatic reconciliation of warring nations, or in the sphere of personal relationships or the reconciliation of an estranged husband and wife.

When God’s story is revealed, reconciliation takes a new focus as the apostle Paul speaks of a new way in doing relationships and that this begins with God and impacts all of creation. In 2 Corinthians 5:19, Paul is proclaiming the transformation of the world and summoning us to see all things made new in light of that transformation and that the death and resurrection of Christ has abolished the old standards for what counts as power and persuasiveness and that we now possess the capacity to overcome alienations and establish new and peaceful relationships.

Uncle Ronnie Williams, a wonderful Aboriginal Pastor from WA, was visiting Ngarrindjeri Country in SA near Victor Harbour wrote this little song;

All around Australia, Aborigines once roamed
In this land that was so peaceful
In this land they called their home.
With his dingo close beside him as he hunted day by day
He could not foresee the future that would one day change his way.
And someday there are songs that we shall sing,
Someday there are joys that shall unfold,
Someday Black & White will harmonise,
And we’ll sing the greatest Story ever told,
Yes we’ll sing the greatest Story ever told

This is God’s story, a story bringing First and Second Peoples together, to walk, talk and work together, overcoming the reasons that there is division and inequality and that God’s Story is announcing a new message and a new journey of hope though his Son Jesus.

Mark Kickett is a Noongar man from the south west of Western Australia.
Mark was ordained into the ministry of the Baptist Church in the early 1990’s. He has ministered in churches in Brisbane, Perth and Broken Hill, and has also worked in government and community services in both Broken Hill and Perth.
Recently he was pastor for 4 years to a small Ngarrindjeri community – Kalparrin – just outside of Murray Bridge, as well as being State Development Officer for the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) in South Australia.
The Congress has ministry in SA also in Adelaide (at Salisbury), Raukkan, Port Augusta and Oodnadatta. In April Mark was appointed Congress National Interim Chair, a position he will hold until the next national Conference of the UAICC, which will be in 2021.
Mark is a father of five adult children. He is passionate about sharing the gospel story, reconciliation issues, and empowering young Aboriginal people to grow in their faith and leadership skills.