‘Heal Country’: 2021 Ngumba-Dal Aboriginal Staff Gathering

‘Heal Country’: 2021 Ngumba-Dal Aboriginal Staff Gathering

More than 100 Uniting Aboriginal staff came together as a community to discuss Uniting’s path to reconciliation at the recent 2021 Ngumba-Dal Aboriginal Staff Gathering.

Heal Country

‘Heal Country’ provided a fitting theme for the recent 2021 Uniting Ngumba-Dal Aboriginal Staff Gathering, held in Dubbo on Wiradjuri country (Dubbo) in Western NSW.

 The theme came from this year’s NAIDOC Week theme (4-11 July) which calls for stronger measures to recognise, protect, and maintain all aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage.

 The annual Aboriginal Staff Gathering was postponed last year due to COVID-19. With restrictions easing this year, the gathering was confirmed and greatly anticipated.

The importance of identity

Networking, acknowledging achievements and future priorities was on the agenda along with discussing Uniting’s reconciliation journey and delivery of key commitments, as shared in the 2019 Uniting Reconciliation Action Plan.

 Assisting the Gathering, local Elder and guest speaker, Aunty Doris Shillingsworth, shared her thoughts about the importance of identity.

 Gavin Mate, Head of Aboriginal Strategy & Engagement from Uniting’s Communities, Advocacy & Social Impact team, acknowledged the Tubba-Gah people and Wiradjuri Elders for their warm welcome and hospitality.

Gavin comments, “I am thankful for this opportunity to lead and be part of this amazing movement of Aboriginal voices at Uniting. With over 300 ‘Ngumba-Dal’ Aboriginal staff across our Uniting network, we are a rich diverse mob in culture and connection to country.”

“Our Ngumba-Dal Staff Gathering brings together Aboriginal leaders from all areas of our organisation. Importantly, we share in our ‘Ways of Working’, as this is the foundational principle which empowers our thinking and builds our own ‘capability’, for current and future generations to come.”

Continuing the Journey of Hope and Growth

Attending on the second day, Tracey Burton, Executive Director recognised the importance of the event for Uniting Aboriginal staff. Interactive sessions with the Uniting Executive team and Board members provided further opportunities to build relationships through conversations about reconciliation.

 Emerging themes called for more focus on improving communication, cultural learning and professional development.

Walking Together Action Plan

Nathan Tyson, Synod’s Manager, First Peoples Strategy and Engagement and Pastor Tom Sloane (UAICC) co-presented on the structure of the Uniting Church (including the Synod, Presbyteries and Congregations, as well as Uniting and the UAICC) with Pastor Tom sharing insights into the nature of work as a Pastor in Wellington and surrounds.

The Synod’s draft Walking Together Action Plan, currently being considered for at the 2021 Synod Meeting, includes a goal of promoting collaboration between the Synod and Uniting in relation to First Peoples’ issues and initiatives. The Synod and Uniting are committed to working closely on First Peoples’ matters to ensure focus on a Covenant-based approach and an effective use of combined expertise and resources.

Sharing visions and plans for the region

While in Dubbo, the Uniting Board and Executive members took the opportunity to meet with representatives from Dubbo Uniting Church and Macquarie Darling Presbytery (MDP), sharing visions and plans for the region while celebrating local collaborations.

Uniting thanks Rev. Peter Harvey, MDP Minister, Denise Wood, Chair, MDP, Rev. Mel Graham, Minister, Dubbo Uniting Church, Dan Eaton, Chair, Dubbo Uniting Church and Glen Powell, Executive Director from Uniting Mission and Education for generously giving their time.

 The Gathering finished with an Aboriginal cultural performance by Talbragar Wiradjuri Aboriginal Dance Group and a group dinner.

 Cultural connection and support

Feedback from the Gathering was very positive attendees sharing how the Ngumba-dal Gatherings make a positive impact, enabling information sharing and opportunities to form new friendships.

 “I really enjoyed the gathering! I felt really comfortable being around everyone even though it was my first time at this event. I really liked how people had an opportunity to speak to Uniting’s Board members to discuss important issues that need to be addressed. I felt the Board members really listened and I look forward to hearing what changes have been made and how they are going to work towards resolving some key issues that were brought up.”

 “This gathering was productive, informative as well as catching up with my aboriginal peers in a safe cultural environment.”

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