The Rev. Peter Sandeman, Chief Executive Officer of AnglicareSA spoke at the Adelaide arrival of the Journey to Recognition on 30 June. The following is the speech he gave:
Here we meet on the land of the Kaurna (pron: Garna) people. I pay my respects to them and their elders. And in the midst of this movement today I am also proud to call Adelaide home.
I am also proud of the amazing work that my colleagues at Anglicare have put into supporting this movement and these events here in Adelaide.
Recognition must go to Sonia Waters, the AnglicareSA Director of Aboriginal Services, and her team. Without you Sonia, and the team at Recognise, this would not have been possible. So thank you!
There aren’t many causes like this one. Everybody can get behind this, because everybody can understand it.
Our own stories tell us what is right.
I am adopted. Half Japanese, half American, adopted in England, brought up in Australia. I remember growing up facing discrimination and at times feeling alienated and disconnected with mainstream Australian society.
I have experienced in a small way what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have experience in a much larger way, for centuries, and in their own country, and too often still do today.
This has got to change. And we as Australians have a responsibility to understand and recognise our history.
There are two marks of mission in the Anglican Church. One is to meet human needs by loving service. The other is to fight unjust structures in society. When you see injustice, you are supposed to stand up. This is a pretty primary example of injustice.
So recognition is a fundamental part of our calling as Christians.
As people of faith, we know the importance of symbolism.
Whether it is the Christian cross, the Star of David, the Muslim crescent, or the landmarks of Aboriginal cosmology, our symbols remind us of our belief in something greater than ourselves, of the values by which we aspire to live, and our obligations to serve others in our communities.
Our Constitution is a symbol too. It reminds us of the rule of law, of the democracy we cherish and the primacy of the Australian people. But at the moment, it does not remind us of something else that is important to Australia. It does not remind us of the vast history that came before European arrival and the people who forged it, only mentioning the institutions that have come since.
But this quest for recognition is not something you can divide into practical and symbolic. It is about both.
This is about recognising the first Australians, the oldest continuing cultures in the world. And it is about removing elements of discrimination in our founding document. Take Section 25, which still gives the States the power to ban a group of Australians from voting based on their race.
It’s about better reflecting who we truly are as a nation, and who we want to be as well.
As churches, we have a special responsibility to step up and add our voices to this movement for recognition. Jesus taught us: “That you love one another, as I have loved you”. In St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he wrote of us being entrusted with “a ministry of reconciliation” and in Matthew we are commanded to “first be reconciled to your brother”.
Faith without action is dead.
If you believe it, you must live it.
Churches have played an important role in the lives of many Aboriginal people, and not always for the best. That’s why it is important that churches get behind this. We need to stand with Aboriginal people in this important moment.
It’s a call to justice. That’s what this is something that resonates with many people.
This is a simple issue in many ways.
It’s about people from all walks of life coming together to do what we know is right.