26 May 2017


Yesterday was National Sorry Day. Did you miss it? Such was the lack of publicity, I almost did. May 26th has for almost 20 years been the day when we remember and acknowledge the mistreatment of Australia’s first peoples since colonization.

I love that there are over 30 nationalities represented at Georges River Life Church – each bringing unique perspectives and stories. But I feel especially honoured to have at least three indigenous Australians in the mix. They to me represent something more than one more culture in the church because for some time I've wanted to personally connect with the people and the story of our land in a meaningful way. Now I can.

Let me give you three unflattering reasons why I’m thinking this way.

Firstly, I’m uninformed. When I went to school, Australian history began in the year 1788. I'm sure the school curriculum has changed now but back in the 80’s, ‘indigenous history’ was an oxymoron. Perhaps our first response is just to listen and learn and possibly, unlearn.

Secondly, I’m clueless. I realise that there is a massive chasm between my experience of the ‘lucky country’ and so many other people's experience. I am white, male, affluent, educated, employed, resourced and connected. What’s more I come from a relatively healthy and proud family unit that has been successful across several generations. 

In other words, I don’t have a clue what it is like to be black, poor, uneducated, unemployed, under resourced and disconnected. What’s more I don’t have generations of shame, dislocation, communal disintegration, stigma and social stereotyping hanging over me. Perhaps our next response is to acknowledge the massive power differential, our natural biases and our ignorance.

Lastly, I’m implicated. Some people get hung up about saying ‘sorry’ for the sins of others. And to some extent fair enough. I wasn’t personally involved in the forced removal of children nor the inhumane assimilation practices. But in spite of all of its good work, the church in Australia was clearly involved. And I’m a part of that church today so I think I have a responsibility to not only acknowledge the past but ensure it’s not repeated.

But more so, I conclude that in some meaningful way,  I (we) need to engage our hearts and energies in bringing a greater reconciliation and healing. ‘Agents of reconciliation’ is after all the job description of Jesus’ followers, so it seems appropriate to me that we should at least not be silent or ignorant, and ideally be leading the way in healing…. somehow. 

If sorry can build bridges to a better future for all Australians - then I am sorry.