Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The story goes on

As part of GetUp's Reconciliation meetings tonight (see details of ours here) participants will be asked to share any stories.
Hopefully this is an exercise in listening rather than grandstanding, which would seem to me to be part of the fundamental principles of reconciliation, something I think John Howard didn't get easily. The image, that stays imprinted with many of us, of him thumping the lectern at the Melbourne reconciliation conferenece (see a YouTube reflection on it here) is hideous. And gave a defiunitive meaning to the idea of 'tub thumping'.
So today I have been thinking how scant my 'story' is:
  • The only Australian my father knew when we came here 40 years ago was an aboriginal manwho had played rugby with a local English league team, he was working quietly in the town of Whyalla where we came to live
  • I am totally unaware of any aboriginal kids who were in the post year 10 classes at Whyalla High School...that may be because I was streamed academically ...but even that speaks
  • In the early 70s I didn't come across any aboriginal students at eitherAdelaide University, or Adelaide CAE and certainly not at that bastion of elitism, St Mark's College
  • There were no aboriginal teachers or aides at any of the large high schools in which I taught.
  • There were a few students, but, I suspect, they were less represented than they should have been
  • None of this says anything other than what I might have observed, and therefore says as much about me as anyone else.
I am afraid my time at theological college is not much better. I don't ever recall ministry with aboriginal people being discussed, let alone presented.
There was one Torres Strait Islander student and I was pleased to help him with some language development. In reality we had more exposure to the South Pacific and Asia than to local indigenous culture.Neither of my training parishes had any contact with indigenous people
In my first parish there were aboriginal people, but they had little to do with Church. One Ngarriendjeri woman in our small congregation.
I then didn't have much to do with aboriginal issues until I worked at St Paul's Centre where part of our watching was to promote aboriginal interests in all the fields of interest we were operating.
So I met some good people working with aboriginal social issues, promoting aboriginal interests in finance and small business, and in trying to address some fo the issues of homelessness and dispossession in the city.
My current parish has the dubious honour of having one of those places of shame in its midst, yet it has become a focus for galvanising community spirit and hopefully moving middle-class endearment and apathy to something like social action. That place, Colebrook Home, (something of the story here) is a mixed blessing. Whilst, no doubt, saving the lives of some it destroyed others. I remember the chilling photograph the day the memorial was opened and hearing one of the fine women saying of a photographic display....."None of the men in those photos are still alive!"
How little I have done, and how much I could have done. Perhaps I can try a little harder

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