Not losing FACE

Posted in Culture

Although this year’s About FACE (Faith And Cultural Exchange) program has been postponed to 2018, it remains an important Uniting Church activity and provides a unique opportunity to deepen understanding and build relationships.

Members of Uniting Church congregations and faith communities across South Australia are encouraged to engage with the Church’s About FACE program to deepen their understanding of the Covenanting relationship between First and Second Peoples.

About FACE has been an activity of the Uniting Church in Australia since 1984 with the aim of building meaningful relationships with Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (Congress) communities.

The program was set to run again in mid-2017, but has since been postponed to January 2018. Applications for the upcoming About FACE opened on Monday 31 July.

About FACE celebrates the Covenant relationship between the Uniting Church in Australia and Congress, and encourages participants and those supporting them to be actively involved in Covenanting, working together for reconciliation in the Church and in the wider community.

The 2018 program will provide participants with an opportunity to spend time within a Congress community, as well as to attend Congress’ national conference in Victoria.

Participants in the 2015 program were given these same opportunities, with the national conference then being held in Tasmania.

Former participant Haileigh Childs (pictured left) admits that she had very little understanding of Aboriginal culture prior to immersing herself in the 2015 About FACE program.

“My relationship and understanding was virtually non-existent before,” she reflects.

About FACE has a strong focus on working collaboratively with all partners to ensure that the program is beneficial for everyone involved, from participants to the communities who host them. Host communities are identified by Congress to strengthen and build upon the already existing relationships with the Uniting Church.

In 2015, the ten female and seven male participants  – from Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland – were split between the outback South Australian town of Port Augusta, Alice Springs and Ernabella in the Northern Territory, Lismore in northern New South Wales, and Grovedale in Victoria.

Haileigh says she, like so many other non-Indigenous Australians, had previously had little opportunity in the past to sit at the feet of Aboriginal people and learn more about their way of life. But interacting via visits to such places as Wilpena Pound near Port Augusta – in the heart of country central to the Adnyamathanha people – and taking on many aspects of the cultural differences has opened Haileigh’s eyes.

“I had done some prac(tical work) in my studies but I had never experienced the (real) culture,” she says.

“I have heard Aboriginal people talking about their land, but now I have heard their stories and seen their [deep] connection to that land.

“It has given me a broader understanding.”

Adnyamathanha elder Rev Denise Champion (pictured right) believes About FACE is an important beginning point for people seeking to develop a relationship with First Peoples.

“They [participants] are adopted into our families and we welcome them to come back [whenever they choose],” she says.

“It [the in-community experience] is just the tip of the iceberg but it makes it a lived experience which is life changing for many.”

The next About FACE will be held from 3-20 January 2018. Applications for the January program have been opened, and the About FACE website has been updated to include all of the new dates, forms, deadlines and information. For more information, please visit the About FACE website here, or contact Coordinator Jill Cooper-Ruzbacky on (03) 9251 5266 or 0417 878 982, or email

This article includes quotes from a piece written by Nigel Tapp and published in the February 2015 print edition of New Times.


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