In the last almost 18 months of serving as Wesley Mission’s CEO and Superintendent, some of the most profound moments have been getting to know our dedicated staff and volunteers and the children, families, and individuals they support each day.
Last year, as we prepared to mark National Sorry Day, I spent some time in searching reflection. As I lead Wesley Mission, I cannot ignore that the European settlement we sprang from some 210 years ago is the same system that brought oppression to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. And how deeply woven structural inequalities persist in continuing disadvantage today.
A year on, having had the privilege of engaging in some deep listening with our First Nations staff and having received the precious gift of stories entrusted to me by Aboriginal people in different contexts – I have a new appreciation for the magnitude of individual and intergenerational trauma that has been inflicted and which continues today.
Saying sorry requires wholehearted acknowledgement of any wrongdoing and the commitment to take action to make things right. Our Christian faith tells us that humbly acknowledging wrongdoing is the first step in true repentance, one that is critical on the path toward true reconciliation and healing.
In his victory speech, our new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, very deliberately began by restating his commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Later in the same speech, he acknowledged the “patient and gracious call” it makes.
Having spent time listening to many precious, individual stories, these words from the Statement, one which reflects many, many more stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, are piercing –
“Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
“These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.”
Our new Prime Minister is right. Our First Nations peoples have been patient and gracious beyond all understanding. Let their stories through the words of the Statement impact our hearts, not just to listen and mourn, but to return to our commitment to meaningful action and carry it through to completion.
Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent