Inaugural conference to lift First Nations voices

Inaugural conference to lift First Nations voices

On Saturday 22 October, the inaugural First Peoples’ Theological Conference — Walking Together: How can the Church embrace First Peoples’ Theology in a post-colonial Australia — will provide attendees the opportunity to hear the perspectives of First Peoples on issues relating to the Uniting Church, Theology, and Reconciliation.

The theme Walking Together:  How can the Church embrace First Peoples’ Theology in a post-colonial Australia comes at an important time as Prime Minister Antony Albanese has outlined plans to enshrine a First Nations Voice into the constitution.

Dr Anne Pattel-Gray, Rev. Mark Kickett, and Rev. Dr Garry Deverell are the keynote speakers.

Aunty Dr Anne Pattel-Gray is the Head of World Vision Australia First Nations Programs. She holds a PhD from Sydney University.

Dr. Pattel-Grey  is deeply committed to the advancement of Aboriginal people and to reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. She has over 30 years in senior management erxperience and has pioneered a number of first throughout her career.

Dr Pattel-Gray previously told Crosslight that she loves, “my church, the Uniting Church, warts and all. I know it’s not perfect and has a lot of things wrong with it and can be mean, hateful, nasty and judgmental, but at the same time I still hold to the faith that it can be transformed and I hold to that imagery of God’s hands at work here among us each and every day.

“My own people say to me, how can you remain in the church after everything it has done to you and I say, ‘I don’t go to church to worship people, I go to worship to be with my creator’, and that is what makes the difference.”

“It’s about my faith and my relationship with God and that love of God has never wavered.”

 Rev. Mark Kickett is the National Interim Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).

A Noongar man from south west WA, Rev. Mark Kickett was ordained a minister in the Baptist Church in the 1990s. His ministry has taken him from Brisbane to Perth, Broken Hill and Kalparrin near Murray Bridge in South Australia.

Rev. Kickett has long had a passion for empowering young Aboriginal people to grow their faith and leadership. Throughout his ministry he has been connected to the work of Congress through his relationships with key Congress leaders, including Denise Champion and the Lester family.

From 2016, he served as the State Development Officer for UAICC in SA, and in April 2020 was appointed UAICC National Interim Chair.

Rev. Dr Garry Deverell is a trawloolway man from northern lutruwita/Tasmania who currently lives in Naarm/Melbourne, where he is a founding Lecturer and Research Fellow in the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Divinity.

Rev. Dr Deverell is the author of two theological books, The Bonds of Freedom (Wipf & Stock, 2008) and Gondwana Theology (Morning Star, 2018).

He has contributed prolifically to publications, radio programs, documentaries, and podcasts on the interface between Indigenous and colonial religious cultures.

Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT, Rev. Simon Hansford said that the conference is another step for the Uniting Church in demonstrating how it is walking together with First Nations people.

“One of the challenges both for our church, and our community is how we pay attention, how we listen,” Rev. Hansford said. “Our faith is founded on a God who speaks, who calls to each of us – in love, and creativity and hope. Once we hear God’s voice, we are called to heed the voices of others; those who are pushed to the edges, relegated to injustice or poverty, whose voices have been silenced or diminished.”

“One of the urgent reasons for this conference is to listen to our first nations, heeding voices both ancient and immediate. It will help our community offer justice, and find healing; We will pay attention to the stories of our oldest voices, as we have been invited by the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”

“We will seek forgiveness, because that lies at the heart of every relationship of hope. We are here as the Church because our faith in Jesus, God’s spoken Word, calls us here.”

“In this conference we will take another step on this vital journey of finding our shared way together.”

The conference is a joint initiative of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT, United Theological College, Uniting Mission and Education, and Newtown Mission.

The First Peoples’ Theological Conference takes place on Saturday 22 October at the Wesley Conference Centre, 220 Pitt Street Sydney. The event will also stream online for remote attendees.

For more information and to register, visit the official website here.

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