Currently, Wesley Mission is shaping our 2023 Strategic Plan and my first since becoming CEO in January 2021. We have invited all our Wesley Mission staff and volunteers to give their input via multiple formats. Some of the most meaningful engagement in formulating our plan has come from a series of forums, nine held in person (seven of those in regional NSW) and one online for our people interstate.
Out of the nine sessions where we gathered in the same room, a consistent, strong theme has been our people’s passion to partner with First Nations communities in every region where we have a presence. There is a deep desire to grow in awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, connect and build genuine relationships with community, and for our services to meet needs and support the well-being of First Nations people. I hear the same passion expressed from my Senior Leadership team too.
Even more encouraging are the conversations I have had with some of our First Nations staff. With the support of their communities, they have taken on some of the most challenging roles that see them walk between two worlds. Their dedication and the grace they show being part of an organisation that is still early in our reconciliation journey is remarkable. Wesley Mission is all the richer for the generous way they bring their expertise and culture to bear in their roles. I particularly want to honour them, including those I am yet to meet – what you do is so important.
And so, it is a natural next step that from this groundswell, I’m confirming Wesley Mission’s commitment that as part of our 2023 Strategic Plan, we will develop our first Reconciliation Action Plan in consultation with staff and communities. Most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
I want this commitment to be a first step in communicating the deep value we have for the First Peoples of the lands we now call Australia, to acknowledge the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to resurrect cultural practice and language. To signal that – with soft hearts, sharp minds, hard feet and open hands – reconciliation is a priority for Wesley Mission.
I did not want National Reconciliation Week to pass without making this commitment to action. It will be a journey that we will all take together and, step by step, see the healing impact of empowering people and communities. For some areas of our community services, partnering with First Nations peoples is a core practice. They are further down the road in this respect – I think particularly of our Wesley Brighter Futures, Wesley Young Healthy Minds and Wesley LifeForce programs. And in some areas, this commitment will usher in a new day.
As part of the Uniting Church in Australia, Wesley Mission looks to the covenanting example of the Uniting Church with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress that fosters just, inclusive and equal relationships, recognising the place of the First Peoples in Australia. We are grateful for their leadership.
God’s heart is for reconciliation, and He is our ultimate example. At its core, Christianity is a call for reconciliation in its entirety, or as Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18)
We commit to working for justice, healing, and strong relationships to ensure our passion goes beyond words to action. Or, as the theme for National Reconciliation Week appropriately calls out, ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action.’
Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent