From the Rector
The theme of National Reconciliation Week is ‘Grounded in Truth: walk together with courage’. Australians have come a long way in coming to terms with our history. This helps us walk together where we understand, value, and respect each other. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men are faith-filled, inspiring, down to earth, and vulnerable. They place an emphasis on presence and relationships. They reflect powerfully on the story of their encounter with new cultures and the resilience of their culture throughout. We have much to learn from asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people what it means to live their culture in this ancient land. They have a genuine openness to the creativity of the Holy Spirit through their story, song, art, and drama.
Truth-telling is confronting. For example, 10 June will be the anniversary of the Myall Creek Massacre near Bingara, north of Tamworth. In 1838, pastoralists were encroaching into northern NSW and dispossessing our first peoples of their land. Gangs of stockmen shot and raped with few consequences. On a June Sunday, several Aboriginal families were camped next to the station huts on the Myall Creek cattle station at the invitation of the people employed there. Eleven white stockmen intruded and savagely murdered 28 defenceless Aboriginal men, women, and children. They then set up camp, drinking and bragging about what they had done. Myall Creek was one of numerous massacres that took place between 1788 and 1928. However, it was one of the few where the European perpetrators were arrested and punished for their viciousness.
Truth-telling helps us move forward. Two Prime Ministers have given powerful speeches about the path of recognition and reconciliation. Mr Keating, at Redfern Park in 1992, said it is time to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope to the Indigenous people of Australia. He recalled the devastation and demoralisation to Aboriginal Australia that continues to be our failure. He then confessed it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the disasters … the alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice, and our failure to imagine these things being done to us. Keating encouraged us to consider if we can imagine the injustice then we can imagine its opposite … so we can turn the goals of reconciliation into reality … we have to give meaning to justice and equity by committing ourselves to achieving concrete results.
Mr Rudd, in 2008, acknowledged in Parliament the injustices committed against our Indigenous peoples. He said the time has come to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past. He admitted that our laws and policies had inflicted profound grief, suffering, and loss. He then said for the pain, suffering, and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say ‘sorry’ … for the breaking up of families and communities, we say ‘sorry’ … for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say ‘sorry’. And he spoke of a future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement, and economic opportunity.
We now have the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which calls for a further level of recognition. The Uluru Statement outlines a path forward for recognising Indigenous Australians in our nation's Constitution. The Statement, directed to the Australian public, uses the term Makarrata: the coming together after a struggle. Makarrata has been used as an alternative term to ‘treaty’. The Uluru Statement was endorsed at the First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in 2017. It captures their aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a future for their children based on justice and self-determination. They spoke of the torment of their powerlessness and the hopes they have for their children. They seek to walk in two worlds with their culture as a gift to this country. The Uluru Statement refers to a spiritual sovereignty: an ancestral tie between the land and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This link has never been extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown. The Statement asks for Constitutional reforms to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a rightful place in their own country.
Currently our Constitution makes no mention of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Some argue for an Acknowledgment at the beginning of the Constitution, and a repeal of Section 25 and modification of Section 51(26), with statements that reflect the prior occupation of the continent and that mention with respect the cultures, languages, and heritage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their continuing relationship with their traditional lands and waters. The leaders of Government and Opposition now have to indicate what they are prepared to sponsor in the Parliament, and Aboriginal leaders need to indicate what they are willing to accept. The art of Constitutional change is in matching indigenous aspirations, constitutional architecture, and public support.
Fr Peter Hosking SJ
OREMUS (Let us pray)
We remember all in our College community. May our prayers comfort those suffering at this time. May God’s blessing be a source of support in their sorrow and loss, and bring courage, patience, and hope.
“Ask and you shall receive … knock and the door will be opened unto you.” (Matt 7:7)
If you would like someone to be remembered by the College community in prayer (even anonymously), please provide details to the Rector, class or Home Group Teacher, or Year Coordinator.
Fr Peter Hosking SJ