International Day of the World’s Indigenous People was celebrated on August 9. This year also marks the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Of the estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, Australia’s First Peoples hold a unique and rich history and culture. While there is still a long way to go to sovereignty recognition for the traditional owners of this land, the Uniting Church is committed in grace to true reconciliation.
During this year’s NAIDOC week, President of the Uniting Church Stuart McMillan – along with many others across the Australian community – celebrated the importance of the 120 languages which continue to connect Aboriginal people to their cultural identity.
“As the Uniting Church currently has a conversation seeking to understand more deeply what recognising the sovereignty of First Peoples would mean for the practises of our Church, we also seek to renew our covenant with our indigenous brothers and sisters,” said Mr McMillan.
“One of the ways we can demonstrate this commitment is by encouraging and enabling the use of First People’s Languages in our worship, meetings and theological education faculties, as well as supporting national efforts to preserve indigenous languages.”
Mr McMillan took time to study the Yolngu language when he lived in the Northern Territory. He found that learning the language deepened his spiritual connection and understanding with First Peoples. This journey also led him to be adopted in the Birrikili clan of the Gupapuyngu Nation.
“God is bound in a relationship with people, in a covenantal relationship,” said Mr McMillian. “In a similar way, First Nation Peoples and Second Peoples of the Uniting Church seek to be bound in covenant with each other and with God, so that we may contribute to a more just church and nation.”
In conjunction with the National Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), the Uniting Church in Australia runs the initiative About FACE that seeks to honour this covenant relationship.
About FACE focuses on faith and cultural exchange, where people over the age of 18 are able to build relationships of understanding (even as they come from different backgrounds and lifestyles).
The next program runs between January 3 and 20 next year. Find out how you can register here.