This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful
Believing we can make it better.
- ‘You’re the Voice’, John Farnham
IofC Australia (IofCA) stands in support with the First Nations Peoples of this land for truth-telling of Australia’s past. This summer season’s bushfires have lent greater urgency to the call for a united Australia. Members of the IofCA network shared with Delia Paul their hopes, thoughts and actions for a different kind of Australia Day devoted to healing and reconciliation.
Spirit of Us
Ahead of 26 January, which marks the beginning of colonisation in Australia, IofC network members received an invitation from Susan Moylan-Coombs, a Gurindji- Woolwonga woman from the Northern Territory and Stolen Generations survivor. She wrote: ‘We are a nation in shock, feeling the grief, injustice and loss from the bushfires. Our emotions are raw, and our sense of safety has been shaken.
‘Yet from this tragedy humanity soared. Out of the ashes is rising the undeniable Spirit of Australians - a unity like no other experienced before has been born. It is breathtaking to see and feel the outpouring of love. A healing has begun.’
She called on all concerned to take part in a simultaneous three-minute silence for healing: ‘Connect to self. Connect to Country and the waterways and oceans. Connect to all the plants and wildlife…Feel this truth: the power is in us when we find the unity in our communities.’
Responding to the call
Many people at IofCA responded. On the day, Creators of Peace facilitator Shoshana Faire was participating in a meditation retreat, where she shared Susan Moylan-Coombs’ invitation with the facilitator and 36 participants. ‘The dharma talk following the meditation was on Dadirri, an Aboriginal deep listening, practice. This was then related to what is now needed for healing in this country,’ she said.
In South Australia, Jean Brown, facilitator of Australians Sharing a New Story, observed the three-minute silence on Ngarrindjeri land by the ocean in South Australia with three grandchildren. John and Helen Mills, long-term volunteers with IofCA, joined in a smoking ceremony with the Kaurna Indigenous community on the banks of the River Torrens.
In Victoria, Paul Ntoumos, IofCA Chair, took part in the three-minute silence in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, on Wurundjeri land. Kathryn Gor, former Executive Officer of IofCA, spent the occasion of ‘Survival Day’ at an Indigenous-led event in Belgrave.
In Brisbane, IofC Elder Barbara Lawler heard from a Stolen Generation survivor at an event organized by Reconciliation Queensland. Another Indigenous speaker at the event, she said, had lost both a son and a daughter to suicide.
Identifying with the pain of others
Barbara Lawler noted a connection between the massacres of Australia’s First Nations - more than 600 massacre sites have been identified - and the high suicide rates of young First Nations people. ‘We need to believe that history can be healed,’ she said. ‘Apology is a step towards this. We are often challenged by pride…yet honesty is what can free and heal us.’
For network members with Jewish heritage, this time of year is doubly significant, as the following day, 27 January, is Holocaust Memorial Day, marking the liberation of Auschwitz.
Judy Greenberg, whose grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz, reflected that, ‘Often one’s empathy and passion for supporting others comes from our own experiences, doesn’t it?’ She expressed deep sadness - ‘for what happened and, sadly, still does for Aboriginal people in many ways.’
Shoshana Faire’s grandparents and other family members were also murdered in the Holocaust. ‘It leaves me with a passion not to be a bystander…and to be part of building a humanity based on compassion,’ she said.
Marking the occasion
In Melbourne, the family of Mohan Bhagwandas, former IofC International Council member, marked the occasion with a thanksgiving for 50 years’ residence in Australia. They had arrived in 1970 from Sri Lanka. ’We gave thanks to the First Nations,’ he said. ‘We gave thanks to this country for giving us a new home, opportunity, life, education, safety and security. We acknowledged a lot still needs to be restored and healed. We acknowledged a lot has changed in the decades we have lived here.’
An hour after the Torrens River smoking ceremony, the Mills took part in a church service where they joined in the singing of a blessing written by Robin Mann and Julie Perrin. Helen Mills concluded, 'it felt very fitting for 2020'.
For you, deep stillness of the silent inland
For you, deep blue of the desert skies
For you, flame red of the rocks and stones
For you, sweet water from hidden springs.
From the edges seek the heartlands, and when you're burnt by the journey
May the cool winds of the hovering Spirit soothe and replenish you.
In the name of Christ.
- IofC Australia supports First Nations’ initiatives for peace and reconciliation. To learn more and to partner with us, contact Athalia Zwartz