Talking treaty on Survival Day

Posted in News

Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan has called on state and federal governments to speed up negotiation of treaties that recognise Indigenous sovereignty.

In a video message released to coincide with 26 January, Stuart urges all Australian governments “to give First Peoples a voice into the political processes which affect their lives.”

“First Peoples in Australia have not only survived but they have withstood injustice and today stand proud,” he says.

Since 2015, the Uniting Church in Australia has been exploring recognition of sovereignty and treaty for its partners in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).

The Uniting Church added a Preamble to its Constitution in 2010 to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of Australia, and to confess the Church’s complicity in their dispossession and assimilation.

Recalling the words of UAICC founder Rev Charles Harris, Stuart says there is still much work to do in advocating for peace and breaking down the walls of racism.

The message is available for viewing or download on the Uniting Church in Australia Vimeo channel, with a transcript available below.


Transcript: 2018 Uniting Church in Australia Survival Day message

In their song about Vincent Lingiari and the Wave Hill walk off, Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody wrote these words:

“This is the story of something much more, how power and privilege cannot move a people, who know where they stand and stand in the law.”

It’s Survival Day 2018. The First Peoples in Australia have not only survived but they have withstood injustice and today stand proud.

Power and privilege couldn’t move Uncle Vincent and it won’t shake the resolve of First Peoples to stand together in the call for treaties in this their land and for their voices to be heard.

The Uniting Church in Australia stands with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and all First Peoples.

In 1982, at this place, Crystal Creek just north of Townsville, Indigenous Christians from around the country gathered in an act of self-determination.

The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress - an autonomous, Indigenous body within the Uniting Church - was born.

The Reverend Charles Harris invited church leaders to develop an Australian theology related to Indigenous issues; to challenge churches to take action; and to develop a Christian commitment to the struggle of the oppressed people of Australia.

Charles Harris sent people out with the stirring words:

"History has been created. God’s purpose has been fulfilled. Be advocates for peace. Let us break down the walls of racism. As we go forward, the gates of hell will not prevail against us."

Thirty-six years later we still take inspiration from these words... and there is still so much work to do.

On this Survival Day, I call on all Australian governments, state and federal, to give First Peoples a voice into the political processes which affect their lives.

I call on all Australian governments, as a matter of urgency, to hasten the negotiation of treaties for the sovereign First Peoples of this land.


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Comments (3)

  1. Janice Merritt 26 january 2018, 23:08 Link
    I am sad that we are not moving forward to break down the barriers of racism. Sad because much of the activism is simply racist based. Where is the forgiveness and reconciliation needed from ALL Australians so we can go forward as one. Indigenous people do have a voice. Same as the rest of us. I am heartened to hear of those folk who are truly working for peace and understanding not along racial lines, but simply as citizens of this country.
    I thought that was what the churches were aiming for. Each telling our stories in peace and understanding. There is no going back, the moving finger of history has moved on, we should be going forward together with God. He loves us all and commands us to love one another.
    1. Janice Merritt 27 january 2018, 12:39 Link
      I made a comment and it was accepted. However this post says no comments?? What happened. Aren't I permitted to have a different opinion?
      1. Catherine Hoffman, New Times Editor 29 january 2018, 08:13 Link
        Hi Janice,

        Our comments are moderated to prevent spam, meaning they have to be checked by a staff member and approved before posting. Unfortunately, we are unable to check and publish these comments outside of office hours. You should now be able to see your comment above.

        Please let me know if you have any further questions.