Before European settlement, the First Peoples of Australia consisted of at least 250 separate nations with their own language groups. They had complex kinship systems and trading relationships, both between each other and internationally. In the cold south, they built stone dwellings and wore warm clothing. They practised agriculture. Through at least forty thousand years of occupation, they had adapted to climate change caused by Ice Age and continental drift, and had developed sustainable practices of caring for the land.
These are the peoples who have, sadly, suffered dispossession and marginalisation at the hands of Second Peoples. These are the peoples the Uniting Church In Australia recognises in the Preamble to our own Constitution. These are the peoples of the United Aboriginal and Island Christian Congress. These are the peoples with whom we have the opportunity to enter into covenant relationship, to learn from each other and work together towards shalom.
The 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church met in July 2018, and considered a recommendation with rationale regarding recognition of sovereignty by the First Peoples of Australia. The Assembly resolved to:
In the light of:
(a) the Preamble to the Constitution of UCA which defines sovereignty to be the way in which First Peoples understand themselves to be the traditional owners and custodians, and
(b) the Statement from the Heart’s acknowledgment that sovereignty is a spiritual notion, reflecting the ancestral tie between the land and First Peoples,
affirm that the First Peoples of Australia, the Aboriginal and Islander Peoples, are sovereign peoples in this land.
Within the MNC Presbytery, there are four principal First Peoples’ nations; from South to North they are the Worimi, Biripi, Dunghutti and Gumbaynggir peoples. And of course, there are other people of Aboriginal descent who are living “off country.” What do we Second Peoples know about these, our neighbours? What are their stories, their wisdom, their struggles, their successes, their hopes and dreams?
Perhaps we don’t know very much because we are shy or uncertain about approaching people of a different culture. Here are some suggestions which you may find helpful, and remember that the MNC Presbytery Covenanting Facilitator Dr David Norling is always ready to share his experience with you. He may be contacted on 0408 032 350, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the UAICC NSW/ACT website
Watch the news or other programmes on NITV (Channel 34 free to air or Channel 144 on Foxtel, Optus or Austar.
Support the Wauchope Uniting Church Youth Group with your prayers, your finances or your presence as appropriate.
Visit your local library for books and information on local Aboriginal history.
Borrow a book from Dr David Norling, who has a travelling library he brings to Presbytery meetings
Form a small study group to study the materials available from Uniting Justice
acknowledge traditional owners at beginning of worship or meetings
Learn about the movement to recognise First Peoples in the Australian Constitution, www.recognise.org.au
Discover if there is a local First Peoples church and suggest a combined social event to share stories.
Attend local celebrations of important dates, for example:
National Reconciliation Week, from 27 May to 3 June (from anniversary of 1967 referendum to anniversary of 1992 High Court Mabo decision).
NAIDOC week, usually from the first Sunday to second Sunday of July each year. In 2017 the theme was “Our Languages Matter.” In 2018 the dates are Sunday July 8 to Sunday 15 July.
Saltwater Freshwater Festival Coffs Harbour annually
Learn, pray and acknowledge the First People's perspective of 'Australia Day', 26 January - use the #Jan 26 resources prepared by Common Grace.
Reconciliation Week 2018 - Starting Sunday 27 May, Common Grace can send you stories from Aboriginal Christian Leaders. As we learn their stories, we are invited to share in their joy and sorrow, to celebrate and commemorate together, to acknowledge that which is not right, and commit to the journey together towards Reconciliation. Sign up for a journey of friendship throughout Reconciliation Week 2018.
Useful contacts and/or resources
Here are some local contacts. This list does not pretend to be complete, so please let us know any additions and corrections - email email@example.com.
Uniting/Jaanamili: Local office: 2/49 Hall St, Old Bar NSW 2430. Telephone: 6553 3992
Forster Local Aboriginal Land Council, 10 Breckenridge St, Foster NSW. Telephone: 6555 5411
Purfleet/Taree Local Aboriginal Land Council, Lots 1-3, Old Pacific Highway, Purfleet 2430. Telephone: 6552 4106
Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council, Aston Street, Port Macquarie NSW 2444. Telephone: 6584 9066 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council, 208 High Street, Wauchope NSW 2446. Telephone: 6585 3882
Dunghutti Elders Aboriginal Corporation: 17 South Street, South Kempsey NSW 2440. Telephone: 6562 2855
Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council (part of Gumbaynggirr Nation): Arthur Street, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450. Telephone: 66528740