Each of our worship centres has had, near its entrance, a plaque recognising the prior settlement of the land by the Wurundjeri people. It is hard for us to understand what it would be like to have our land, our way of life and our means of survival, taken away from us. Not only that, but to have our religion, our culture and our ‘tribal’ knowledge deliberately stamped out by people of a different colour, religion and culture, who considered that they were superior to us in every way.
It may be hard to contemplate but is it inconceivable that this could be Australia’s lot in another generation or two? Are we secure from a hostile takeover of our lands, our possessions, our culture and our religion in the future?
While we second Australians can celebrate a history in this country of little over two hundred years, there is evidence that our first Australians, the oldest continuing civilisation in the world, have lived in this country and cared for the land for over sixty thousand years.
Jim Poulter spoke to us some weeks ago about Aboriginal settlement in Australia and particularly in the Manningham area. Jim’s family have been closely associated with the Wurundjeri people since the 1840s. Although not Wurundjeri himself, Jim, a social worker by profession, set up the Aboriginal Liaison Unit of the Social Security Department (Centrelink) in the late seventies and was seconded to the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet at the request of Uncle Reg Blow in the 1980s to assist him to set up the then named Aboriginal Affairs Unit . This is now known as Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.
Over the years, Jim has spent many hours in the company of Aboriginal elders, listening to their stories and adding to his own wealth of knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture and practice handed down by family members over many generations. Today, Jim is Secretary of Reconciliation Manningham and we are pleased to be able to tap into his extensive knowledge.
Jim Poulter will return to MUC on Monday, 21 January, to speak to us about Aboriginal spirituality. His talk is entitled, ‘Understanding the Dreaming – the basic tenets of Wandjinist Religion’. This will be a real eye opener for most of us. Please put this date in your diary today. This date, of course, is just before Australia Day (26th January) and the day chosen by the Uniting Church nationally to give due recognition to the sovereignty of our First Australians.
On 27th January 2019, all Uniting Church people will be encouraged to reflect on the pain and suffering inflicted upon Aboriginal people since white settlement because of the massive depopulation caused by smallpox and other diseases and the cumulative effects of dispossession, dispersal, dislocation and cultural repression.
So much cultural knowledge has been lost, says Jim, and that which has survived is often fragmentary with different people holding different fragments of the total picture.
Over the next few years, as we at MUC seek to build closer relationships with Wurundjeri people, two of our key objectives will be to share pride in our Aboriginal heritage and to promote the importance of Aboriginal people rediscovering their identity through cultural practice.
Convenor, Learning and Discipleship Portfolio