Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan

TEAR’s framework for realizing our vision for reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Read more.


TEAR Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support Program

‘Dhumba’ is a Woi Wurrung word for talk, tell, speak.

Dhumba: TEAR Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support Program

About Dhumba

Dhumba is TEAR Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support Program.

'Dhumba' is a Woi Wurrung word for talk, tell and/or speak. Woi Wurrung is the language of the Wurundjeri people, the traditional custodians of the land on which the TEAR Australia head office is located. The word captures the aim to build relationships through good communication, listening and talking together. Wurundjeri elders have given their permission for the use of this word in our program.

TEAR Australia has an active Reconciliation Action Plan which sets out our goals and activities contributing to reconciliation in Australia. The Dhumba program is part of our commitment to recognition and reconciliation.

Through Dhumba, TEAR will continue to grow the partnerships with Indigenous Christian organisations and build further opportunities for community development with Indigenous peoples. The focus of the partnerships is community development training and capacity-building.

Dhumba Program Effectiveness

TEAR is a member of the Australian Council for International Development Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Working Group. This group of Indigenous program managers works to maintain high standards of development practice in all our programs. We have participated in the formulation of the Principles of Effective Development Practice with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. There is also a Companion Document with examples of good practice from the programs of Working Group members. Dhumba partner agencies contributed to both the development of principles and the companion document.  Dhumba funds periodic external evaluations of the projects it supports to encourage learning and growth.

Dhumba Committee

The program is guided by a committee of people, mainly Indigenous, who have wisdom and experience working with Indigenous communities. Current members are:

Brooke Prentis

Brooke Prentis is an Aboriginal Christian Leader who is a descendant of the Waka Waka people in Queensland.  Brooke is the Chairperson of the Queensland Churches Together Indigenous Peoples Partnership and a member of the Salvation Army’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group.  She also is the Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering which is a national, interdenominational conference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders.  All these roles are held voluntarily as well as being a Board Member for TEAR Australia and a member of the Dhumba Committee.  Brooke is a Chartered Accountant and senior finance professional in Brisbane having worked for two ASX listed companies as well as seven years at the International Accounting firm, Ernst & Young.  Brooke is committed to bringing awareness to issues of poverty and injustice in Australia, and is a committed agent for Reconciliation in Australia.

Safina Stewart

Safina is an Indigenous artist who lives in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Born in Auckland and raised in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Safina's life has been full of multicultural experiences. She is proud of her Scottish, Asian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island heritage.

Maylene Slater-Burns

Maylene is the daughter of two Aboriginal grassroots community workers, Sharon Slater from the Kamilaroi tribe (NSW) and Mel Burns from the Kuku Djungan peoples (QLD). Maylene was born on Kulin country in Melbourne, where her parents spent many years living and working in the local community.

Currently in her role at SNAICC in Communications, Maylene is focused on working for Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and supporting her mob to become stronger and healthier. She passionately believes in Aboriginal self-determination and reflects this idea from her love of Christ. Maylene is a volunteer at Wandarra Aboriginal Corporation where she coordinates the Wandarra Young Leaders Program. She is a Board member at Songlines Aboriginal Music and a renowned emerging singer-songwriter. Her ambitions are to write and perform her own music and to continue to celebrate her culture and Indigenous Christian leadership in Australia.

Marj Quinn

Marj has been involved with TEAR over several decades. Marj and her husband Geoff were TEAR Field Workers in Zambia. Marj served for 8 years on the TEAR Board, and she currently convenes one of the Hubs of TEAR's International Programs Allocation Committee (IPAC), which is responsible for funding decisions in the International Program. Marj also chaired IPAC’s predecessor, the Program Review Committee (PRC). Marj has co-facilitated many TEARlink gatherings in Alice Springs and the Top End, and in 2015  Marj and Geoff spent 7 weeks working in a volunteer capacity with one of Dhumba's partners (AHED) in Galiwin’ku.  Now retired from paid work, Marj was formerly employed by RMIT University, teaching in the areas of family work, community development work (including international) and cross cultural practice.

Stuart Downs

Stu Downs is a former TEAR fieldworker, based in Cairns. Stu is currently employed by the Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, a not-for-profit organisation owned by the Cape York Aboriginal Charitable Trust, on behalf of the Aboriginal people of Cape York. In this role, Stu has worked on a wide variety of projects including low cost housing, the Mosman Gorge Gateway Project, home ownership initiatives and building projects. Stu also works part-time for Cape York Timber, a social enterprise producing high-quality sustainable Australian hardwood and providing Indigenous employment and training. Stu has provided various inputs for the fledgling timber business including negotiation with Indigenous land owners, securing approvals, liaison with government agencies, formulating policy positions, preparation of documentation and undertaking research tasks.

About Dhumba

Mural on a wall in Yarrabah, an Aboriginal community, about an hour’s drive south of Cairns.
Used with permission, Yarrabah State School.

What Do We Do?


TEAR Australia, through its Dhumba program, partners with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations engaged in community development, providing funding and non-monetary support,

Dhumba supports the work of Christian groups that focus on empowerment strategies. At any one time, Dhumba has a portfolio of 4-5 Indigenous Christian partnerships.

Some completed projects are:

  • Community development training through Yalga-Binbi Institute for Community Development, in Townsville
  • The production of culturally-appropriate picture books for children (Black Ink Press)
  • Wilderness adventure experiences for young people in Port Lincoln, South Australia who are affected by drug and alcohol use (Baptist Care SA)
  • The production of radio programs “Where Does Money Come From?” with Arnhem Resource Development Services

Raising Awareness

TEAR believes it has the resources of knowledge, networks and some funding to contribute in a small but meaningful way to closing the gap not only of life expectancy but the myriad other gaps which exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

Dhumba works with Australian Christians inviting them along the journey with Indigenous Australians. The Reconciliation Resource Kit has been a helpful set of resources for many groups and churches.

We also run local visits of short, one-week tours which introduce Aboriginal people and their communities. If this interests you, let us know.

Supporting those working in community

Through TEARlink, Dhumba supports those called to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

TEARlink brings people together for times of reflection and prayer.

Indigenous Advocacy

Rather than develop its own campaigns, Dhumba aims to amplify the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples already campaigning for change.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The Australian Government gave formal support to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in April 2009.

The Declaration sets internationally-recognised standards on the rights of Indigenous peoples and Australia's endorsement was an important step in re-setting the relationship between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Australia.

It includes principles such as:

  • Non-discrimination and fundamental rights, including self-determination;
  • Cultural integrity;
  • Rights to land and other resources;
  • Rights to economic well-being.

You can read the Declaration and information about it, on the Australian Human Rights Commission website:

The Declaration provides an important standard against which Dhumba can set its advocacy goals. The TEAR Australia Board has endorsed the Declaration.

Close the Gap

The Close the Gap campaign is a coalition of 40+ groups concerned specifically with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health which began in March 2006. A secretariat tracks, lobbies and reports on government performance in closing the 17-year life expectancy gap. It takes a rights-based approach. Each year, they produce the Shadow Report on the Australian governments' progress towards closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. See the latest one here:

There are plenty of options for action in the Close the Gap campaign. Check out:

Constitutional Recognition

The preface of the Australian Constitution fails to recognise our First Peoples or acknowledge their prior occupation of the land.

Many Australians are also surprised to learn that our Constitution currently allows governments to discriminate against any group on the basis of race. This fails to reflect modern Australia and also fails the test of compliance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples has produced a report setting out options for achieving the goals of recognition and a Parliamentary Committee is working to produce wording for the referendum. PM Abbott has indicated that he wishes to hold the referendum in May 2017.

To be passed, the proposal must be backed by a majority of people in a majority of Australia's six states. There is currently at least 70% support for constitutional recognition, according to opinion polls.  A sticking point is whether the constitution should include a broad prohibition on racial discrimination.

In the meantime, there is much work to be done in raising community awareness of the importance of this issue. A good place to start is the Recognise website:

Paper Tracker

Paper Tracker is a UnitingCare Wesley (SA) initiative which tracks and records on a website, all the government promises relevant to the peoples of the APY lands in central Australia. It then tracks the follow-up of these promises and gives people valuable information about their rights and entitlements. Take a look at their website:

Your local issues

From time to time you will become aware of issues of importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in your own state/territory and own area. Be alert to these and find ways to support their endeavours.


Building on our successful overseas fieldworker program, we have formed TEARlink – a network of Christians working in government and community jobs across Australia. TEAR’s role in TEARlink is to facilitate retreats and meetings and to use its resources to bridge the isolation felt keenly by many community workers.

TEARlink has three hubs:

  • Darwin, NT, for people working in the Top End;
  • Alice Springs, NT, for people working in Central Australia;
  • Cairns, Qld, for people working in North and Far North Queensland.

People working in other areas are welcome to join in their nearest hub. To join a hub, contact

What Does TEARlink Do?

We run retreats in each of these hubs. These are currently annual but we have the capacity to increase frequency according to need.

The retreats have two aims: to bring spiritual refreshment by using bible-study reflection and prayer; and to facilitate discussion about work and life in the sometimes difficult settings of rural and remote Australia.
Through these retreats, people often find ongoing mutual support.

Here is what people have said about their experience at the TEARlink retreats:

“It was very refreshing to spend the weekend with other people who have a similar background and shared experience of working with remote Indigenous communities.  It meant that we had a space for dialogue and reflection which didn't need lengthy explanation and scene-setting.  Everyone understood where each of us was coming from easily.  This made for such a refreshing change.  And also just having the space to come together and spend the time talking, reflecting, praying.”

“The group consisted of people who have been called by God or placed by God into this work.  There was a very clear understanding of a sense of vocation and mission amongst us.  None of us were in the careerist space in relation to this work.  This was probably the most significant aspect of the weekend for me.  It was a lovely, elegant reminder for me as I walk the path and spend a lot of time engaged in struggles which distract me from remembering my vocation.” - Stuart Down, September 2012

Do you work in indigenous communities? Join the TEARLink network.

How We Can Support You


Prayer is a critical part of our work. Listed below are some areas that need support through faithful prayer.

Pray for the Dhumba Committee and Dhumba staff

The Dhumba Committee meets 4-5 times per year, sets policy for the program and makes important funding decisions. Pray for each member, that they can find time for good preparation and that, together, they may make wise decisions.

Governments and Policies

  • Pray for wise government leaders, both federal and state/territory, as they develop and implement polices on closing the gap of Indigenous life expectancy.
  • Pray for the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.
  • Pray for a successful referendum to change the Australian constitution to give overdue recognition to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to change the race provisions. The timing is not yet set but may be in 2017.


Pray for churches and communities to embrace reconciliation and build strong relationships between different groups in their local area.

Pray for the projects that we currently support

At any one time, Dhumba has a portfolio of 4-5 Indigenous Christian partnerships. Please pray for the effective work of these partnerships.


TEARlink is a network of Christians working in government and community jobs across Australia.

  • Pray for all those called to work in the challenging situations of Aboriginal communities.
  • Pray that they may be well-prepared and well-skilled in cross-cultural relating.
  • Pray for wisdom, patience and peace.

Prayer for Reconciliation

Lord God, bring us together as one,

Reconciled with you and with each other.

You made us in your likeness.

You gave us your Son, Jesus Christ.

He has given us forgiveness from sin.

Lord God, bring us together as one,

Different in culture, but given new life in Jesus Christ:

Together as your body, your church, your people.

Lord God, bring us together as one,

Reconciled, healed, forgiven,

Sharing you with others as you have called us to do.

In Jesus Christ, let us be together as one.

© Prayer by Bishop Arthur Malcolm taken from APBA.

Prayer for the Journey of Healing

Almighty and loving God, you who created ALL people in your image,

Lead us to seek your compassion as we listen to the stories of our past.

You gave your only Son, Jesus, who died and rose again so that sins will be forgiven.

We place before you the pain and anguish of dispossession of land, language, lore, culture and family kinship that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have experienced.

We live in faith that all people will rise from the depths of despair and hopelessness.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families have endured the pain and loss of loved ones, through the separation of children from their families.

We are sorry and ask Your forgiveness.

Touch the hearts of the broken, homeless and inflicted and heal their spirits.

In your mercy and compassion walk with us as we continue our journey of healing to create a future that is just and equitable.

Lord, you are our hope.



You can support TEAR's work with Indigenous groups in Australia by giving a tax-deductible donation.

Give monthly or Donate once

Are you an organisation seeking support?

This information is for any organisation seeking to partner with TEAR in its Indigenous Support Program, named Dhumba.

What do we mean by partnership?

Dhumba has no projects of its own. Rather, we partner with other groups, including churches and community-based organisations, which are working in their communities. Dhumba seeks to build effective and accountable working relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations or ones with significant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander leadership or stakeholders.

Foundational to partnership is a shared vision of an Australia where all communities flourish and are equally able to contribute to building a rich, healthy social fabric across the nation. The vision is animated by the vision of human flourishing of the Kingdom of God inaugurated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which celebrates the diversity of all peoples in the image of God.

To this vision, both Dhumba and the implementing organisation will bring gifts and resources and agree to work together in the belief that coming together in partnership creates something that cannot be achieved individually. This partnership should be beneficial to both organisations and help each of them achieve their goals. It should not distort the mission and goals of either party.

Partnership is based on the idea that the resources shared ultimately belong to God and both parties to the partnership are accountable to God for their use. The sharing of resources is not an act of charity but a distribution of the wealth of the Kingdom.

Partnership is primarily a relationship built on trust and open communication. Like all relationships, it involves spending time together, listening and learning from each other's stories. The relationship will thrive on honest communication of successes and failures.

Partnership involves

  • Sharing a common Christian vision;
  • working together to accomplish agreed results and both organisations accept joint responsibility for achieving them;
  • long-term involvement;
  • mutual roles and responsibilities expressed as covenants not contracts;
  • trust, respect, integrity, accountability and equality;
  • acceptance of the fact that the implementing organisation has the right to set the final agenda for its own work.
  • acknowledging the expertise of both parties.

The process of partnership

  • Organisations wishing to partner with Dhumba should make contact with the Dhumba Coordinator to discuss their ideas and begin to build a relationship.
  • Once both are satisfied that they wish to proceed to partnership and the activity is in the ballpark of being fundable according to Dhumba funding guidelines, the project should be written up using a proposal template.
  • This draft proposal will then be discussed with the coordinator. This stage may take some time as aspects of the proposal undergo changes. This often takes some months so it is advisable not to make forward commitments.
  • The final proposal goes to the Dhumba Committee for a decision.
  • The Dhumba Coordinator will then be an active partner as the project progresses, making regular visits and being an active conversation partner as issues are encountered.

Possible funding decisions

  • This may be a simple Yes or No.
  • Conditional approval: Approved but requiring the Coordinator to follow up on some matter before sending funding.
  • Not approved but possible resubmission: Significant flaws but with some changes, may become fundable later.

For more information please contact

You can support Dhumba projects by giving a tax-deductible donation. Give monthly or Donate once

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If you work in Indigenous communities

TEARLink is a network of people who share a goal to strengthen and encourage each other to work for sustainable and empowering change in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities. Join the TEARLink group on Facebook.

If you're an organisation considering partnership with Dhumba 

Dhumba has no projects of its own. Rather, we partner with other groups, including churches and community-based organisations, which are working in their communities. Dhumba seeks to build effective and accountable working relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organizations or ones with significant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander leadership or stakeholders. Read more about partnership.

If you're helping people move toward reconciliation with Australia’s First Peoples

Many Christians, groups and churches are aware of a gap in their understanding of Indigenous history and people of their region. Many feel that the time has come to address this gap but they do not know how to go about it. TEAR Australia has collected a range of resources here to help groups and churches. Read more.

First, it may be helpful to assess where you are on the journey.
Check out the stages from our Reconcilliation Resource Kit, to find examples that may help you grow.

If you are interested in learning more deeply from Indigenous people...

Consider signing up for a one week exposure program. TEAR's Development Education Experience Programs (DEEP) are exciting, confronting and unforgettable.

DEEPs are for those interested in immersing themselves in an experience far from their normal lives, in order to engage in the wider world and come away transformed by the experience.

We hear plenty about the problems of remote Australia. Few of us get a chance to visit and talk with Aboriginal people about their experiences. In fact, you could say that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people live in parallel universes with little opportunity to interact together.

The Dhumba Development Education Experience Program (DEEP) provides opportunities for small groups to spend a week seeing parts of Australia that few people experience and seeing life from the point of view of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. What happens to remnant communities who want to live on a piece of land once a mission but now claimed for a national park? How do people make a living as well as retain links to Country when their community lies hours away by unsealed road, from the nearest town? More information

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About TEAR

TEAR Australia is a Christian development, relief and advocacy organisation responding to global poverty and injustice. More >

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