Statement by Aboriginal elders, ca. 2003 to NATSIEC the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission hearings of NCC Australia, quoted by Jason Goroncy in his blog Per Crucem ad Lucem
We Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples believe that the Creator has always been with our people since the beginning of time. Our connection to this land Australia and the stories from long ago emphasise this and reveal to us our ongoing relationship to the Creator. We know that the Spirit is always close to us and within us. The Spirits of our ancestors are always around us looking out for us and showing us the path we should travel. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
We have been given a gift to offer the rest of humanity; the importance of relationships. The Creator still has a strong relationship with us and helps us build stronger relationships with one another. These relationships also cover everything around us, for it is through the land, water and air that we are continually reminded of this. It is not just the symbol of the rainbow that reminds us about the covenant between the Creator and humanity. There are signs all around us that continually remind us of the Covenant.
Our peoples are generous, caring and compassionate towards each other and other Australians. We have survived many negative things yet we still reach out our hand in reconciliation. This is the message of long ago from our roots and also the message through the Christian Bible. It has been the message passed down from generation to generation from parent to children since time began.
The Spirit lives on through us and we must continually foster this relationship through acts that remind us of this great truth. These acts are ceremonies, which help us to draw closer to our creator who has left the Spirit with us. Through them we retell and relive the great stories of our past.
Since the coming of the Western Culture, there has been a breakdown in our relationship with the Creator. Our ways have been under threat and this has led us to move away from our roots and into a foreign way of thinking. This has caused hardships within our communities as we struggle to find our way. Sometimes we have failed to recognise the Spirit present with us. We looked to the new culture to show us the way forward and it has led to more confusion and loss of direction. This culture has failed our people. It has shown it cannot satisfy our deepest yearnings.
This culture wanted us to look for the Creator through their eyes. They have failed to see that the Creator exists within our culture. While Abraham was wandering in the desert our peoples had been for many generations living in close relationship with our Creator. We have an Old Testament, which we can now accept as part of our salvation history.
How short sighted Western Culture was to think they had the monopoly on the Creator and how blinded were we to believe this was true. It is up to us to reclaim our beliefs. Our Creator yearns for us to come back. Our relationship has been tested and made stronger because of the many mistakes along the journey because we have learnt so much from the experience. We now know about Christ. This story from the Western Culture has touched and had an impact on our lives.
We did not have Jesus amongst us as the Apostles did but he left us the Spirit of the Creator. We know this Spirit to be the same Spirit who is with us now because of what it has done and continues to do. This Spirit of relationships reminds us about our responsibilities to one another and creation and that we all come from the same source of life. This Spirit is also the Spirit of the Rainbow Serpent, the Brolga, the Emu, the Stars, the Fish, the Plants, the mountains and much more. We must hold on to and strengthen our Spiritual heritage.
As a Minority we stand as the strength of this Land. We affirm our belief in the Creator Spirit who created us. It is in our connection to this deep sense of belonging that our Identity lives. Our Culture can never be broken. We embrace our past. We are alive in the present and have hope in the future. The Creator Spirit calls us into a search for a deeper relationship with himself and each other. The Creator Spirit calls us to renewal.
The Moonlight Creek project
Over the last 8 years, Elders of the Bugajinda (Moonlight Creek) Clan of the Gungalidda tribe in Northern Queensland have been supported in claiming their native rights by Quaker Service Australia and Friends of the Earth. Recently, the Clan followed the Ancestor's Dingo Dreaming and discovered a spring of fresh water on the beach, as the story had told them. The Clan had recently gained access to their homeland, following years of institutionalisation and mission settlements. The area that was returned to the Clan had been damaged by cattle-raising and is now threatened by mining, but it is still a beautiful country of anthill plains, reed beds and billabongs, vast salt-pans and belts of lush monsoon scrub, with incredible biodiversity: many species of fish, goannas, turtles, brolgas, plain wanderers and the whistling kite.
Land is identity
This project is part of a wider movement back to “homeland” by Indigenous communities. “Homeland” means identity, law and spiritual connection. Living on the land means living according to the traditional teachings of the Dreaming. It is to be a place of healing, spiritual renewal for adults and children of the clan, a place where people from all over the world can learn to understand the Aboriginal way of life. Because of a century of residential schools, disease, despair, suicide, alcoholism and prison, returning to homeland was not a simple process. There was also difficulty gaining access to the land. The Elders believes that return to the land would restore the spiritual connection desperately needed by the clan, and that the failure of existing government services could be solved by self-rule.
In 2000 QSA was approached for funding. Eight people created infrastructure at a campsite on the clan’s homeland. QSA partially funded the construction of a pit toilet, and a 10,000 litre water tank; water pumped from the river then supplied two showers and other needs. Cyclone proof sheds were purchased and brought (with great difficulty) to the site: creating a council house, a kitchen, and toll storage. The sheds were needed because of the frequent storms in the area. The Elders were able to develop a community away from Doomadgee (a nearby town), to reclaim their culture and take control of their future.
Unconnected but welcome was a formal apology on 13 February 2007 by the Australian Parliamentto Indigenous Peoples, in particular those from the "Stolen Generations" who were forced into school and removed from the land to make way for pastoralists and agriculture.
"While it was long-overdue, the apology itself resonated with a sense shared by many Quakers that healing the hurts of the past and acknowledging the impact of traumatic events are important aspects of reconciliation and of building a more peaceful and compassionate society." -- Aletia Dundas, Indigenous Concerns Officer, Quaker Service Australia.
See also Steve Smith & Jason Lewis' travel blog with Dreamtime stories. Wikipedia on Aboriginals and their art, aboriginal art directory.