Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Illegal aliens

So we have Theresa and John staying with us this week. This afternoon John had a discussion with our staff about the implications of being foreign people in this land, and the need to either 'go back where we came from' to connect with our ancestral lands, or to connect with this land, but on the terms of it's tradition custodians. I didn't understand it that well, but I think that is okay for the moment. John connected these ideas to some of Paul's ideas:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' (Acts 17:24-28)
John and Theresa also ran a workshop at the Den tonight, called 'Living on Aboriginal Land'. I wasn't able to go - but anyone who did, it'd be nice to hear your thoughts.


David said...

Very confrontational, fundamentalist and argumentative.

Despite the claims, simple but unworkable answers were provided.

Questioners who were largely already on board with the processes, and the cause. A largely silent remainder, who may of thought anything.

Still made me think.

Andreana said...

Well it made me think too! But I'm not so harsh in my critique. I think it's easy to be put off by John because David is right, he comes across as a bit of a fundy. I think there was much truth and wisdom in what he said, and it is important to glean that.

John talked about the idea of forming treaties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. There has never been a treaty, unlike other colonised parts of the world, e.g. NZ. A treaty is a set of rules to work with; a way to move forward. A treaty also presupposes that both parties are on an even footing. At the moment, John says, Aboriginal people are in a very weakened state - they have been culturally, socially and spiritually decimated. So non-Indigenous Australians cannot go to Indig Australians demanding a treaty; the first step is to ask how they may assist in building up Indig institutions (cultural, social, spiritual) to bring Aboriginal people to a place where a treaty may be possible. John talked about strengthening the institutions of women's business, men's business and initiation (or education). Apparently there is a process in place already which you can donate money to - it was started by one guy, up in Qld.

From what I gathered, the 'official process' is not all that official, and that there are many different means by which Indig society is strengthened. We talked a lot about listening - not assuming that your skill set will correspond to a need in the Indigenous community, but waiting and listening to see what is really needed. As non-Indig people who want to be a part of the healing, we mustn't become a burden to the people we're trying to be of help!

So what did I get out of the talk? Well, I thought about being more intentional in connecting with some Indig people. There are some Indig leaders connected with my church (Collins St Baptist Church) - but I have never taken up the offer to spend time with Aunty Jean. I could do that. Just as a way of beginning to listen and see if there is anything that I might offer as a way of helping in the healing process. Maybe that's by listening! Who knows. Or it could be by donating money, or writing, or driving a van.

Gemma (in her blog) said she felt stressed at yet another thing she had to dedicate herself to, when she felt already dedicated to homeless people. I see where you're coming from Gem. But maybe try not to stress too much - see this as just another way of doing the work that we already do, which is connecting with people on the margins. Aboriginal people are marginalised - and perhaps we should prioritise the building of relationships with them. I sort of feel like Indigenous people are like a spiritual gateway - they can show us how to connect with the land and with our God. And also, as part of the colonising force, perhaps we have an obligation to offer ourselves as part of the healing of those we dispossessed.

John T. said...


St. Mary's Catholic Community of South Brisbane today signed a treaty with the Noonuccal

They have committed to provide practical support to "The Agenda"

I suggest there is nothing unworkable about this, although it is indeed simple.

David said...


Sorry, I was harsh. I felt alienated in your talk, at what I saw as your dismissal of the work of many people I know and love. People working in projects supported by indigenous people, and some actually commisioned by indigenous communities.

At work today we were talking about the difficulty of engagement with indigenous leadership due to the disproportionate medical issues people face. I believe "White peoples" medicine can help, if only it followed "Why Warriors Lie Down and Die" recommendations about communication, translation and practice.

The concept of "no compromise" I still see as non-workable. I think that a treaty is all about compromise. That's how two people or two groups come to an agreement. Maybe we have a disagreement based primarily on language.

I still struggle to see how treaties of the nature you discussed will ever cover 100 percent of Australia. I think there are huge scalability issues to be dealt with and the question of mass involvement in the idea is tricky.

I think however there is beauty in every small treaty that is signed. I hope I am proved wrong, and that meaningful treaties cover this land.

As for rebuilding indigenous communities it is a hard fight. One that is neither simple, or quick. One that is long.

We aren't just dealing with the violence, but also rapid modernisation that is affecting all of the world. There is so much dislocation even in the Global North due to the rate of change in the world. This speed of change is unprecedented with huge effects on us all.

John T. said...

Aboriginal family/tribal structure and customary law exists all over Australia, it is a historical reality. Different in every place but still in existance even in the inner citiy. In terms of scalability, it is already a connected national thing, it always has been.

The simple question is do non-Aboriginal people support it or ignore it?

If Aboriginal law is ignored, in Australia or Africa, then any mode of engagement by way of welfare or charity does not address the causes of poverty - disposession of land and does not address solutions - redemption of land. The welfare/charity mode, especially that practiced by Christians through organisations such as Tear and Micah are just manifesting a relationship of power and powerlessness, where the missionary/aidworker percieves themselves as a saviour from a superior culture and framework, either "the modern world" or Christian salvation.

The cliche is "Give a person a fish and they eat for a day, teach them to fish and they eat for a lifetime". This theory falls apart when the river is polluted by a gold mine or the person is not allowed to live near the river because a multinational agribusiness or water corporation owns it.

The assumption of the welfare/charity mentality is that the problem lies in inadequacies or dysfunction or lack of education amongst the poor and it attempts to treat the problem at that level.

It is interesting to see that Tears primary assistance to Aboriginal Australia is to provide chaplaincy and religious training to Aboriginal people.

I do not at all belittle the importance of spiritual revival as a power for social change, but can incorporation into the white church really represent a spiritual revival? especially when so many non-Aboriginal folk are leaving the church because of its dinosaur theology?

is this really the path out of poverty or towards social justice?

There are good things in the Tear program such as culturally appropriate literacy but the whole framework does not even hint at questions of social justice and disposession of land - nor do the U.N. principles espoused by the Micah challenge.

Australia is a rich nation, yet modes such as tear still want to minister to the pathetic, hopeless and vulnerable black people, offering them the hope of Jesus and the cultural norms of Western European civilisation but failing to embrace a spirituality of land that is the real redemption of both Aboriginal Australia and migrant Australia. - the ecological collapse affects us all.

jesus said sell all you have and give it to the poor. He said whatever we do to the least of these we do to him. Can we really justify welfare provision or religious training to Aboriginal Australia when what is clear and simple is that their needs to be a redistribution of wealth and land.

Do we wait for the government to change course, a course that it has not changed in 220 years of colonial rule?

Do we wait for Caesar to have a change of heart and just keep up the supply of bandaids to the mortal wounds inflicted by Caesar's soldiers?

Or do we begin the process of change ourselves, in our own lives and communities and organisations?

John T. said...

Please consider "Liberation Theology". Treaty circles is based on something like this, not a program of aid or legislative reform.

Leonardo and Clodovis Boff.....

“There is a failure to see that the poor are oppressed and made poor by others; and what they do possess - strength to resist, capacity to understand their rights, to organize themselves and transform a subhuman situation - tends to be left out of account. Aid increases the dependence of the poor, tying them to help from others, to decisions made by others: again not enabling them to become their own liberators.”

“The historical subjects of this liberation are the oppressed who must develop a consciousness of their oppressed situation, organize themselves, and take steps that will lead to a society that is less dependent and less subject to injustices. Other classes may, and should, join this project of the oppressed, but without trying to control it.”