Yesterday was January 26th – designated as Australia Day. Vehemently defended by some. Hotly opposed by others. I wonder where you find yourself? Some of our Indigenous friends call it “Invasion Day”. However, technically, some would say, it was explorers who came to these shores, rather than a military force. None of us, I believe, should fail to acknowledge the terrible effect European Settlement has had on our Aboriginal people, however. Wrong on top of wrong has been done to them.
So what should we do with Australia Day? It hasn’t always been on that date – and maybe it ought to be moved… but for the moment we have it. I do think it is odd to insist so strongly that we keep the date – but then offer a public holiday on Monday instead!
What does it mean to be an Australian? All my life I seem to have asked myself that question. When I was at school, at MLC, our Principal – Dr. Wood – would often say to us that we were indeed blessed to receive such a good education. He would quote “From those to whom much is given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48), and we were moved to take it on board. So I grew to believe that the privilege of living in such a wealthy country, and the benefits of attending such a prestigious school, came with some serious responsibilities. What would be required?
Of course, I realised that not everyone in Australia was privileged. For several years, from Primary School, one of my close friends was a girl from Far North Queensland. She was a Torres Strait Islander who had been taken from her home, and the care of her brothers, and adopted by a family in Cheltenham. She was one of the stolen generation. When she was sixteen when she ran away from home, to return to her brothers, and I have never seen her again. I think about her and wonder about her. I pray for her, and for all her people… because they are also my people.
At what point in history are we allowed to say we are Australian? On my father’s side, I am the seventh generation born in Australia. Am I Australian? On my mother’s side, I am the second generation. I am married to an immigrant. Am I Australian?
Our Gospel reading for today includes this passage, which Jesus read from the scroll, at the Synagogue:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
It seems to me that this ought to be something we take very seriously. It is ancient. It is a holy quest. As Christian people, we need to see that Jesus took this to be his destiny. Can we heal the history of Australia? Can we make reconciliation imperative? Perhaps many of the ills we see in our society come from this history? How can we begin? Whoever we are, and wherever we perceive ourselves to be in the complex tapestry of Australian contemporary life – these concepts are good news.
Something to ponder this week
God bless you