The ongoing struggles faced by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters are often highlighted on specific days such as Australia Day, or through NAIDOC Week events. However, as time moves on and the highlights die down, we often forget about these issues until the next time they are in the public spotlight. We often forget the disturbing facts about Indigenous health, incarceration rates or education levels until the next special day.
As Christians, we are called to echo God’s heart for justice every day – not just when it’s popular to do so. This sense of justice includes ensuring equality in access to resources by all people. Sadly, we know that this equality is not a reality for many of Australia’s First Nations peoples. Proverbs 31:9 tells us to ‘defend the rights of the poor and needy’ and in James 2:15-16 we read “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” We are called to be in the space where the marginalised are every day of the year – not just on the occasional ones.
So how can we advocate for justice for our First Nations peoples throughout the year? Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Get to know more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, and the hardships they face – hear their voices and their stories – know their struggles. Some resources to help include:
- The Salvation Army Eastern Territories Indigenous Ministries have information on our reconciliation work and various other partnerships which are occurring. Make contact with them and find out how you can support them.
- The Salvation Army has a Reconciliation Action Plan which is an important tool in trying to address our role in building relationships with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Get to know this tool and tell someone about it today.
- Watch our Salvo Academy evening “Our Shared History” – a great resource to watch and hear from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Salvationists. There is also an accompanying Q&A resource developed from this event, which explores the ideas of engagement, respectful listening, treaty and more.
- Undertake cultural competency course. The Salvation Army has partnered with the Centre for Cultural Competence Australia to make fantastic training available. There is a cost involved, but perhaps your Corps or Centre might sponsor you, particularly if your ministry regularly engages in this area.
- Check out Common Grace’s ‘Grow in Understanding’ web page, which has various resources to help you learn more about Indigenous history and concerns.
- Check out Australians Together – they have great resources on how to ‘Discover’ more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history, as well as ideas on ‘What can I do?’
- Do a Bible Study series on Indigenous Issues at your Corps. Australians Together have a 4-part small group study called ‘Sharing Our Story’ which you can access for free online.
Be intentional in including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in your life and that of your church. An important aspect of justice is empowering others, and by including our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters in our everyday lives, we empower them to tell their stories and create the opportunities to see positive changes. Some simple ways to be inclusive are:
- Include a ‘Welcome to Country’ or ‘Acknowledgment of Country’ at the beginning of events and services, as a simple way of respecting those Indigenous people who may be attending and letting them know they are an important part of your community. Information on how to perform these ceremonies can be found here.
- Promote special and important dates, such as NAIDOC week or Reconciliation week, and encourage your wider church community to celebrate with our Indigenous community. Perhaps you might even plan a special event around one of these dates. A list of important dates can be found here.
We learn from the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8 that God wants us to bring injustices before him. Commit to praying for justice for our First Nations Peoples on a regular basis.
If you have further ideas, or questions about how you can support our Australia’s Indigenous Peoples throughout the year, contact us. Educate yourself about the issues; include everyone in the life of your community; and lets work together to see these injustices overcome.