Reconciliation or Makarrata, we will be judged on our deeds not words
Chris Hughes, Victoria Regional Meeting
He calls out the continuing failure of our institutions to recognise their embedded racism in seeing western culture including Western Christianity as normative and correct; in considering that this ancient land and people have nothing to enrich western Christian culture. A failure to acknowledge Country still calls out for relationship which colonialism has not completely severed.
I hope Garry’s project to have Aboriginal Christianity accepted and integrated into the Anglican liturgy happens. The tokenism and empty words he speaks about within his own institution are found in all our current institutions. The rest of this article is my reflections on the issues raised in the book.
The myths that “Aboriginality” is about pure blood, skin pigment and living a traditional life, is a dominant view held by many, and used to deny the continuing connection to Country and culture of mixed-heritage people who identify as First Nations people, particularly in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, where the colonial invasion has been its most devastating and where many First Nations people live in urban centers off Country. They are still connected to the fragments of culture saved from the initial invasion. The reality is the Traditional Owners and custodians still exist and are still connected to Country all over the continent. The Colonial plan to absorb First Nations Peoples into the colonial plan has failed. We live on a bi-cultural continent with the original owners and custodians of the land, which was stolen.
This generation did not still steal the land or commit the massacres; however, it does benefit from that theft. It still allows the exploitation of Traditional Country without informed consent or genuine negotiations. It still practices institutional racism that only recognises, imposes, and enforces western norms. It stills gas-lights First Peoples and enables poverty, poor health, removal and incarceration through its silence. Unlike First Peoples, it can’t critique another culture to absorb its positive qualities and reject its harmful ones, to blend into a stronger culture. It imposes its social norms. The fact this is not uncommon, does not make it right.
This felt truth is at the heart of settler guilt and inability to face the true history of Australia. It is what drives the undermining of First Nations peoples’ self-determination and is expressed in the desire to control and dictate what reconciliation means and how it is to be determined.
Such a process will fail, and the guilt will continue to haunt us as settlers. Only acknowledging the truth and providing reparation acceptable to the wronged party will remove this.
Politicians and corporations will not lead on this. They have vested financial interests in maintaining the status quo, the incarcerations and exploitation of Country for corporate profits. The Gap continues and in many categories is increasing because of the institutional racism of Australian culture and institutions.
However more ordinary Settler Australians are beginning to engage with First People and building local Makarratas and calling for truth telling, recompense and treaties at a local and National level.
What are we called to do? exactly what First Nations peoples have been asking of us since the 1930s: educate ourselves on the true history of the area we reside in, acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded. The Frontier wars happened and First Nations peoples fought to defend their country, culture and families and continue to do so the best way they can. The Traditional Owners and Custodians still exist wherever we live.