Katherine Purnell, Tasmania Regional Meeting

Artwork by Bill Harney used with permission of ArtMob Hobart

Professor David Tacey, the 2016 annual Tasmanian Peace Trust lecturer, grew up in culturally divided Alice Springs. He felt that “the consciousness of Aboriginal people was closer to the divine than that of my own European-Australian culture”.  He defines this as “a collision of ego and soul” in which Aboriginal people have chosen to develop and foreground the soul.  He traces this, as a transformation of personality, a transparency to the divine.   It is metanoia in Greek thinking and what Christ called for.

The lecture calls for, not an adoption of Aboriginal perceptiveness, but a return to our own cultural sources of reality.  When we are sensitive to the depths of our forms of spirituality we understand that Aboriginal people want to give to us the gift of deep listening, dadirri.  We might wonder why they would want to give it to us. David explains that Aboriginal law expects that a way of touching the humanity of invaders will be found so that they set aside warlike behaviour.  Echoes of “Love your enemies” and the Peace Testimony?

Colonisation has damaged the balance between “welcome to country” and “do no harm”.  With mutual respect an exchange of non-violence/loving relationship can be offered and received based on shared spirituality. David derides the slickness and superficiality of New Age industries, also political correctness which has vested interests in protecting itself from spirituality.

A special aspect of David Tacey’s writings are quotes from elders from remote communities about the yearning they have for deep communication with Westernised people.  They believe this may come when we go back to the roots of our spirituality – perhaps Celtic or Judeo-Christian – to when the earth seemed alive.  Some writers, such as Veronica Brady and Les Murray have also identified the opportunity for renewed connection with the “ground of our being”.

This lecture will resonate for Quaker readers wanting to connect with First Nations peoples on a spiritual level.  Not so clear is how urban Indigenous people carry the culture and religion that more remote people practice and whether they will be ready to share.  David’s experiences will help to make bridges at a time when there seems more hope for real understanding and respect between us all.

“The elders who bear the gift of listening and pattern thinking seem like voices crying in the wilderness, and yet despite their lack of visibility and the muted response, their work is in the spirit of the great liberation movements of the last hundred years.  The gift shares with Ghandi, Mandela and King the idea that only an activation of the spirit will set people free.”


Friends heard much that resonates with issues raised by Charlotte Meacham when she visited Australia in the early 1970s.  Her report, “Listen to the Aborigines” was based on statements Aboriginal people made to her. It appears in spoken and written forms on the Quaker Learning Australia website.

The lecture is available in booklet form from PO Box 451 North Hobart 7001 for $10.

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