Supporting Mapoon ministry

Posted in Culture

Pictured: Rev Dennis Corowa and Stuart McMillan on the site for the new Mapoon church.

The Uniting Church in Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) are asking members to give generously to an appeal for a new church in Mapoon on Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula.

“The 14th Assembly committed to help build a new church in the former Presbyterian mission where local Aboriginal people were forcibly removed between 1963 and 1964”, says Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan.

“Building a new church is an important act of reconciliation in the spirit of our covenanting relationship with the UAICC.”

The Presbyterian Church established a mission at Mapoon, on the western side of Cape York just north of Aurukun, in 1891.

The initial impetus to close Mapoon mission came from a 1953 meeting between the Presbyterian Church and the Queensland Government where the Aboriginal and Foreign Missions Committee was advised that no further aid would be forthcoming for Mapoon unless the mission could be made “more self-supporting by her industries”.

Between 1954 and 1963, the Church discussed closing the Mapoon mission, citing a lack of water supplies, poor soil for agriculture, and no prospect of alternative industries on the land. The Queensland Government forced the closure of the mission in 1963, burning down the Mapoon people’s homes and demolishing their church.

Former residents began lobbying to reopen Mapoon soon after the mission’s closure. Several families eventually resettled in the area and restored their link with the land.

In 1989, the Assembly Standing Committee adopted a resolution to rejoice with the Mapoon community who after 25 years of forced resettlement were returning to their land and township. In 1990, former Uniting Church President Sir Ronald Wilson apologised to the Mapoon community for the Church’s failure to do more to stop such flagrant human rights abuse.

“Today, in 2016, we have the opportunity to help heal a historic wrong and give witness to the sincerity of our commitment to reconciliation,” explains Stuart.

Traditional owners and the Mapoon Aboriginal Shire Council have identified a possible site for the new church.

Mapoon resident and Calvary Presbytery member Marda Pitt says a new church is a much-needed addition in her community.

“Church services in the community are currently held in the covered area of the Mapoon school. People in old Mapoon need a proper place to worship,” she says.

“We want a place our elders and our young people to feel the love of God to heal the hurt.”

This church-building project in Mapoon has far greater impacts than simply erecting a building, it is an important act of reconciliation.

Rev Dennis Corowa, the National Chairperson of the UAICC, has also voiced strong support for this project.

“The Mapoon community is making a space for Christ. It’s our job now to step up and help them do that,” says Dennis.

“As well as a centre for Christ’s healing ministry, a new church would also be a symbol of Christian commitment to healing and justice.”

All Uniting Church members are encouraged to support the Mapoon Church Appeal, and help to rebuild and restore the community of Mapoon. Find out more or donate here.

Information for this article has been taken from coverage of the 14th Assembly and from an article on the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress website here.

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