Opening a door for Indigenous recognition

Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan and Chair of Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in WA Rev. Sealin Garlett publicly demonstrated their support for the Recognise campaign in the middle of the Perth CBD today.

The two Church leaders met with Mr James Back from Reconciliation Western Australia outside the Wesley Uniting Church in the city. A five metre long banner was hung on the front wall of the church building, and a giant sticker featuring Recognise branding was placed on the busy pavement in front of the church.

Uniting Church in the City Minister Rev. Craig Collas offered a prayer as he stood by the sticker.

The Recognise campaign aims to garner support for a referendum to mend the historical exclusion of First Peoples in the Australian Constitution, and to eliminate racial discrimination in the founding document.

Rev. Garlett said the prominent placement of the banner and sticker was a tremendous statement in support of Indigenous recognition and would be a conversation starter for the hundreds of people who pass the church every day.

“This jars the door open for the community to meet us where we are,” said Rev. Garlett, who is also a Nyungar Elder.

“One of the things our community is very strong on now is that we have a lot of unanswered questions. There tends to be a normality of illusions and conclusions that people make. They put a mould on Indigenous people and put a capacity on where we are meant to be.”

He said recognising First Peoples in the Constitution was just the beginning of the conversation for the community. By unveiling some of the false illusions placed on his people this recognition would allow the Australian people to take the next step towards true reconciliation.

“We’ve worked with a lot of good intentions… it’s time to walk the talk.”

The President said the journey towards Indigenous recognition in the Australian community echoed the Uniting Church’s deepening relationship with First Peoples.

“As a Church we have recognition of Indigenous peoples. Now we need to think about how we take that further, and we are only taking the first steps towards that now,” said Mr McMillan.

“We need to have that conversation – if we recognise First People as sovereign, what does that mean? It is not just about saying the words, it’s about what that means for the way we engage with one another, the way we deal with property, and all those things.”

One of the proposals before the 14th Assembly is to continue to support recognition for Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution “as long as the form of recognition offered can be seen as a step towards and not a blockage to the larger issues of sovereignty and treaty”.