The peak body representing First Nations Catholics has invited fellow Catholics to make 2022 a year of action to “strengthen Australia’s foundations by supporting Australia’s First Peoples”.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) has issued a statement for Australia Day, reflecting on this year’s theme: Reflect. Respect. Celebrate.
The statement unpacks those three verbs and encourages people to consider a response as individuals and as Catholics.
Read their full statement below:
Australia Day 2022
Reflect. Respect. Celebrate…….Do
Australia Day is complicated for many First Australians, and we have a long way to go before all Australians feel comfortable celebrating Australia Day on January 26, or indeed at all. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples feel that moving the date would be a starting point for creating a new dialogue and platform for Reconciliation.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council is in agreement and advocates that Australia Day should be celebrated on May 27 – the day in 1967 that Australians voted overwhelmingly to amend the Constitution to allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people and include them in the Census. In any case, our national day provides an opportunity to come together (COVID permitting) and acknowledge the gifts that our Creator has bestowed upon us in this Great Southern Land.
The theme for this year’s January 26 Australia Day celebrations – Reflect. Respect. Celebrate. – is short in length, but large on ideology. A natural response might be to approach the theme from a collective point of view and Reflect about the ways in which we, as a community, responded to the COVID pandemic; how we as a society Respect all Australians, including our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and Peoples; and how we, as a nation, might best Celebrate Australia Day. After all, hasn’t the unofficial catchcry of the pandemic been that “we are all in this together”?
What if, for this year, you were to reframe your responses to the theme as an individual and as a Catholic?
How did I respond to the COVID pandemic? Was I empathetic and thoughtful towards others? Did I see a need and act upon it? Have I tried to include and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in my personal, parish or professional life?
As First Nations Catholics, it is important to reflect upon the past – even though much was taken from us, we can reflect on our determination, our resilience, and our connection to our land. You might reflect upon how important it is to come together to be one again – our strength, our love and our connections to each other and to our forebears, our learning of who we were meant to be and who we are today.
Do I show my respect for First Nations Peoples? Have I encouraged my parish and school to conduct acknowledgements or install an acknowledgement plaque? Do I seek knowledge from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in caring for our land?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics show respect through honouring our ancestors and by keeping our Culture, the world’s oldest continuing Culture, alive. We respect and appreciate the non-indigenous people that are working to support our communities.
How do I celebrate the survival of the world’s oldest continuing Culture? Will I celebrate Australia Day with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples? Will I seek out Australia’s First Peoples and listen and learn from them? Where will I attend the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday celebrations?
NATSICC will celebrate the amazing achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in spirituality, music, art, literature, dance, song, science etc. by continuing to introduce these gifts to the wider Australian Catholic Church.
By reflecting upon the theme on a personal level, we are assuming the responsibility for action and not leaving it to others to create change. Combined with our innate desire, as Catholics, to become more like Christ, we are individually called to action to make Australia a country that more closely reflects our Christian beliefs of equality, respect and care for our poor and vulnerable.
A nation built upon these beliefs is a strong and inclusive nation – something we all desire. However, a strong nation is built upon a strong foundation, and currently Australia’s foundations are undermined by its relationship with its First Peoples.
Therefore, we propose an addition to the theme – Reflect. Respect. Celebrate. Do. – bringing us closer to the 2022 NAIDOC theme of Getup! Stand up! Show up! Words are easy and limitless, but actions require time, effort and commitment. We ask that you make 2022 the year of “Do”.
Some things anyone can do in 2022 to strengthen Australia’s foundations by supporting Australia’s First Peoples include:
- Support and sign up to support the Uluru Statement of the Heart (https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement), which endorses truth-telling and enshrining a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution.
- Seek out your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community to share their stories at your organisation, school or parish.
- Attend Mass at an Aboriginal and Islander Catholic Ministry. A list of these ministries can be found at https://www.natsicc.org.au/your-state–territory.html
- Install an acknowledgement plaque in a prominent place in your organisation, school or parish.
- Acknowledge First Australians before Masses in your parish.
- Deepen your understanding of January 26 and what it means to be Australian through the upcoming NITV and SBS programming slate, Always Was, Always Will Be. https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2022/01/12/nitv-and-sbs-invite-australia-join-them-deepening-their-understanding-january-26
- Undertake Cross Cultural Competency training to learn more about Australia’s First Peoples.
- Watch the ‘Australia Day Views by First Nation Catholics’ interview produced by Evangelisation Brisbane and featuring NATSICC’s Sabrina Stevens alongside Cynthia Rowan, Dean Parkin and Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
With thanks to NATSICC.