Brooke Prentis launches our NAIDOC Week Series, "Because of her, we can!" with a powerful reflection on the women who have shaped her life, and the opportunity for us all this NAIDOC Week.
Aunty Rev Denise Champion
|Katherine Rainger, Assistant Priest at Holy Covenant Anglican Church in Canberra, celebrates the transformative ministry and theology of Aunty Rev Denise Champion, the first Aboriginal women ordained in South Australia.|
Aunty Rev Denise Champion is an Adnyamathanha woman, theologian and Uniting Church minister.
Aunty Denise was ordained in 2015. She was the first Aboriginal woman to be ordained in South Australia. She is a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister and aunty.
I know Aunty Denise through her writing and speaking. As a non-Indigenous person, her writing and speaking are a gift. They are a guide to deep wisdom. Because of her, I see and hear my faith more clearly.
Aunty Denise’s book, Yarta Wandatha, contains a theological method and a collection of theological reflections that bring together her Adnyamathanha culture and Christian faith. The voices of the psalmist, the prophets and Mary the mother of Jesus are interwoven with Aunty Denise’s Adnyamathanha Muda (worldview). Rich images of Christ as precious Living Water are shared through her stories and her connection and concern for her people and her Country. Praise and lament, rejoicing and mourning, memory and history, echo through the pages of this very special book.
Yarta Wandatha affirms the deep knowledge that creation holds and speaks to us if we are ready to listen. Yarta Wandatha is a recognition of Adnyamathanha peoples’ “long memory” of the Creator God in their stories and in their land (p.29).
"I always say Australia is like one gigantic storybook. There’s a story in every part of the land and sky and sea. When we, as Adnyamathanha, gather and tell our stories we always say yarta wandatha – ‘the land is speaking.’ We also say yarta wandatha ikandadnha. The people are speaking as if the land is speaking. So the land is speaking to us and through us in these stories. There’s a oneness there.
We are not separated from the land our mother. We always talk about the land as our mother, which fits very closely with the story of Genesis of the Lord God forming humankind from clay" (p.19)
Aunty Denise is a theological voice that has helped me to approach my research in Australian film and theology which includes the film The Tracker (directed by Rolf de Heer, 2002). The Tracker was filmed on Adnyamathanha country. It is a story of land, conflict between First and Second peoples, lament and truth-telling. Because of Aunty Denise I can see things in this film that I would never have seen on my own. Because of her, I see God’s activity through the creation of peoples, lands, lore and stories in this country we now call Australia. Because of her, I hear lament in the Australian landscape.
I give thanks to God for Aunty Denise, for her gifts of faith, healing, storytelling, theological insight and teaching.
– written by Katherine Rainger.