Abbey Sim reflects on engaging, listening deeply and continuing the conversation with Aboriginal Christian Leaders.
Over a week has passed since we came together to pray in unison on the evening before January 26 for #ChangeTheHeart and I am thinking about many things.
This was my first time properly engaging with #ChangeTheHeart and responding to the call of Senior Aboriginal Christian Leader Aunty Jean Phillips and other Aboriginal Christian Leaders. As a non-Indigenous 34 year-old, I’ve lived most of my life thus far in a bubble, with little understanding about the depth of injustices facing Aboriginal peoples. Growing up in Worimi Country, I did classes in “Aboriginal Studies” at school and I remember learning about the Stolen Generations and feeling deeply sad, but this is the first year I can sense my heart and spirit spurring me towards taking action.
For a long time now, I’ve chosen to pretend that “Australia Day'' doesn’t exist, staying home to avoid seeing others loudly celebrate this day. This small act of defiance was my way of advocating for justice, but now I realise this wasn’t enough. Working for Common Grace, I’m humbled to walk alongside my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends and be led by them.
I’m learning what it means to Hear the Call.
When one of my family members sent a “Happy Australia Day” message this year, I replied with photos from the Day of Mourning march I attended with my children on January 26. Where previously I chose to stay silent, now I’m finding opportunities to speak out in conversations with friends and family.
At the Day of Mourning event here in Awabakal Country where I live, we chanted “Always Was, Always Will Be, Aboriginal Land,” and I could see my inquisitive 6 year old son processing what this means. Later, when we read the children’s book written by Anne Kerr and cover-illustrated by Aboriginal Christian Leader Marda Pitt titled “Sorry Sorry,” my son expressed his sadness when I read the words “Then the Others pushed the First Peoples away and forced them to find new places to live, far away from their true homes.” Later, he quietly told me that Sorry Sorry was his favourite book.
Aunty Jean says, “your history is our history, our history is your history.” We can’t change this history of invasion on January 26th 1788, nor can we erase the brutality that followed with the Frontier Wars, or the pain that endures today. But we can acknowledge the over 65,000 years of custodianship and stewardship by more than 300 nations of Aboriginal peoples and commit to understanding better, lamenting, praying, and looking to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the way forward.
Common Grace, as led by Aboriginal Christian Leaders, is seeking to bring the whole nation on a journey towards Reconciliation and friendship. #ChangeTheHeart has given Aunty Jean Phillips a national platform and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I realise that Aunty Jean has been trying to talk to people like me for decades.
Sometimes I feel like Australia’s societal systems and institutions are too powerful to change, too resistant to examining our shameful history or unwilling to upset the status quo in order to heal the injustices that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to face. But a constructed dam will not block the water from flowing forever. I see many people are joining together in truth and love, gathering momentum, weakening the barriers to change. I put my trust in Aunty Jean and in Common Grace’s Aboriginal Christian Leaders and I am so thankful to be led by them, who I know are led by their ancestors and by our Creator God. I long to see justice flow in these lands now called Australia.
Would you like to learn more or engage further with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice?
You're invited to watch #ChangeTheHeart 2022 and continue the conversation with Senior Aboriginal Christian Leader Aunty Jean Phillips by signing up to attend the (online) Common Grace Digital Seminar on Tuesday 15th, 7:30pm AEDT.
You can explore Brooke Prentis and Bianca Manning’s tips for how you can engage with January 26 and beyond.
You could also consider supporting Common Grace with a financial donation to help Common Grace continue to employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to lead us towards friendship and Reconciliation, to advocate for truth-telling and to #ChangeTheHeart of our nation.
Emma Lalic is Common Grace's Partnerships and Donor Manager. She is a mother, writer, nature-lover and advocate for justice. In her spare time, you will find her reading, trying to skateboard with her kids, or bushwalking around the beautiful Awabakal Country (Newcastle) where she lives. Emma enjoys contemplating the big questions as she explores her faith, looking for signs of hope in her quest for aliveness.