This is part 3 in a 7-part series “7 Reflections on Reconciliation”, for Reconciliation Week, based on interviews with four Christians from Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds.
Interviews by Ben Clarke, Supporter Engagement Officer - TEAR’s work with First Peoples.
Rhanee Tsetsakos, an Adnyamathanha woman from Port Augusta with close family ties to country and family in the northern Flinders Ranges - Adnyamathanha country, works for the Uniting Church in South Australia.
Reconciliation is so much bigger than an individual action. The systems that are in place in Australia have been made up by a particular group of people, for a particular group of people and if you don't fit into that category then there's a disconnection. Reconciliation is about connections. Where disconnection exists, the reconciliation process can't happen.
Mark Kickett, a Noongar man from Noongar Whadjuk and Balardong country, is the State Development and Outreach Coordinator for the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in South Australia.
Everything that ignores giving First People a voice in decision making will be band-aid solutions. We need to start empowering Aboriginal people and allowing them to have a say in their own destiny. Allowing communities to begin to flourish. Dealing with the root issues of the (continued) stolen Generations, and dealing with the problems of drugs and alcohol and how that impacts our people.
We also need to work out why these things happen. Why have we allowed our folk and communities to be broken? Why does the wider Australian community always brand Aboriginal people as not capable? There needs to be a time when we are allowed to speak and to be who we are. We have a lot of eminent First People right across this country who can provide the quality input that can represent our people. Giving them decision making power is one of the major things for us to be able to transform our community.
Steve Bevis, a TEAR Board member, is the Senior Minister at Alice Springs Uniting Church.
Reconciliation is both a personal and systemic challenge. Engaging reconciliation at a systemic level actually involves individuals thinking about how systems operate and also the way individual Aboriginal people exist within institutions - government departments and organisations, schools, childcare centres and the like. How will they feel about their participation as a student or a consumer, a client or professional colleague? Reconciliation needs to work both at the level of individual and institution.
We need to ask ourselves “What, in the system, is currently exploiting and marginalising Aboriginal people? What is making it hard for them? What is easy for me because it is my system and comes out of my culture?” It requires people to have discussions about that. Policy makers and bureaucrats and leaders need to really think carefully about how the those systems will affect the people in them. To do that, they have to be listening to Aboriginal people and their experiences.
Tanya Riches is a Christian academic whose PhD focused on worship and social justice initiatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders.
While interpersonal relationship is important, the Bible does address systemic issues. The positive thing we learn from this is that we can actually make a change. We can be involved in restoring things at a cultural level and also at an individual level. That is something that should excite us!
NOTE: Not everyone is comfortable with the word reconciliation. Reconciliation talks of returning to a place when relationship was good and that has never been the case in Australia. Most people, however, continue to support the aims of the reconciliation movement.