Echoes of a Much Older Story

Meredith Walker-Harding reflects on Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion’s book Anaditj, an invitation to listen to the gospel of Christ in a new, ancient, way.

Rev Dr Aunty Denise Champion is an Adnyamathanha woman from the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, ordained minister, theologian and teacher.

Her book, Anaditj, was born out of the uncomfortableness she felt with Western theology and the differences between it and her understanding of Anaditj - the life principle and worldview of the Adnyamathanha people.

We are taught that the Christian gospel came to Australia, and to its First Nations Peoples, exclusively from a Western cultural context. Aunty Denise, however, gently argues that there is and always has been a much older story contained within this land, understood by the Adnyamathanha people as Anaditj - literally translated ‘the way things are’. Within Anaditj lies what Aunty Denise calls ‘the DNA of the gospel’ (p69), knowledge of ‘Creator, God Most High’ (p12), the ‘universal Christ and the birth of the universal church’ (p13) - ways that God has spoken to Aboriginal peoples through Creation and through their own context. 

Using Adnyamathanha story-telling, theological insights, Biblical reflections and lived experiences of colonisation and racism, Aunty Denise unpacks this deeply meaningful concept and how it connects to creation, language, wisdom and the church. 

In chapter two, Aunty Denise reflects on how language, especially the way Scripture is translated and how we refer to God, impacts people's understanding of the gospel. By limiting language, like expecting the English name for God to be used by people regardless of their own language, the church is limiting the dignity of the gospel. That is why she uses ‘Arrawatanha’ the Adnyamathanha name for God:  ‘I feel affirmed in being made in the image of God. God has made me Adnyamathanha so why not speak in Adnyamathanha?….When my culture and language is affirmed that is Good News’ (p40).

Chapter three is full of Adnyamathanha creation stories that contain wisdom about knowledge of right and wrong, belonging and community, death and the afterlife. ‘God gave us this Big History and that is the beginning story of wisdom itself’ Aunty Denise explains, ‘Big History - the wisdom of God that came from God - is what we all get our bearings from’ (p51). As ‘urupaku’, a follower of Jesus, Aunty Denise is able to recognise Christ in these stories, which allows her to grasp the deeper meaning. ‘This can only happen when we make a conscious decision to embrace the Christ-way’ (p59).

The last chapter’s call for reformation is a powerful one. Aunty Denise reflects on the impact colonisation and racism has had on all people in Australia, not just First Nations Peoples, particularly the damage done to the gospel. ‘For something that we know can be life-giving’ Aunty Denise writes, ‘people are not hearing it because things have gotten in the way’ (p66). 

First Nations Peoples hold knowledge, understanding and wisdom that all people, especially the Western church, need to learn from. For the church to be complete, their voices must be heard.

Anaditj is a concise, approachable and thought-provoking entry into Adnyamathanha theology and Aboriginal spirituality - an invitation to listen to the gospel of Christ in a new way, spoken by a voice connected to an ancient culture and peoples. It is essential reading for all followers of Jesus who live in these lands now called Australia.



Copies of “Anaditj” are available for $25 + $3.30 postage. Click here to download the order form. Orders and queries can be directed to UCA Synod of South Australia Mission Resourcing [email protected]

More copies of "Yarta Wandatha" are being printed, click here to put your name down to be notified when more copies are available.

Learn more about Aunty Rev Dr Denise Champion here

Meredith Walker-Harding lives on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. She and her husband Phil run Joey Games where they make board games about Australia for kids and adults to play together. Meredith has studied biology, theology and cross-cultural communication and loves cooking, crafting and cats.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice