26 January 2020

Australia Day Prayer

Yesterday was Chinese New Year and today is Australia Day! We can give thanks for our nation and I would like to lead us in a prayer of thanksgiving. But as the church, as disciples who come under the authority of Christ’s mandate to love- we also should pause to reflect on the cost of our national success. That our history bears witness to great injustices against the Indigenous peoples of this land. And to acknowledge that we are all in some way beneficiaries of the suffering of others.

The current Australia day campaign has the slogan – “we are all part of the story” – and that is a good and unifying message - but I’m not so pleased with my part of the story. Over the past month, really since the fires began, I’ve taken to digesting as much information as I could about Indigenous culture, spirituality, land management and what happened in the years after 26th January 1788.

I discovered I have a blind spot not only in how rich is their culture but how dark is our history since 1788.  (Check out my last to blogs for those reflections and a resource list here and here). 

Within a few years of Arthur Phillip landing on the shores of Botany Bay the majority of the Aboriginals in our part of Sydney were gone. After thousands of years, gone. Firstly, through disease, then deprivation as food resources were gobbled up, and eventually government sanctioned murder. And over the next 100 years the custodians of our continent were pushed to the point of extinction –Tasmania Aborigines for example, were, barring a few survivors, systematically exterminated. Our history is a record of great cruelty and inhumanity on a genocidal scale – I was not taught this at school in the 80s.

So today I would like to lead you in a prayer in three parts – a thanksgiving for Australia, an acknowledgement of country, but also prayer of repentance.

Jesus we thank you for this great nation. For the freedom we enjoy through a stable democratic system of government, a healthy economy, to clean drinking water, access to excellent health care, to excellent education for our children, to freedom to speak and to practice our faith, to the tapestry of cultures that make us who we are, to the way that community comes together in times of crisis like the bushfires and the way , to our RFS volunteers who have magnificently given of themselves and to those who have served our country in our armed services to protect all these freedoms. We thank you.

But Jesus, we acknowledge that the colonisation and development of Australia brought with it terrible pain and destruction to the original custodians of our nation – to their culture, their way of life and to their connection to Country – and also as a result, to the health of the environment in which we now live. We recognise that your Church in Australia has at times played a role in their suffering – through ungodly actions or in many cases inaction.

But we also recognise that this is not only the sin of past generations. We repent of our own indifference, ignorance and neglect concerning their past suffering and their marginalisation in Australian society today. We are grieved that they are still fighting for the same basic rights that we celebrate, and recognise that human dignity is not restored simply with increased government funding or good policy. That we each have a part to play in restoring dignity.

So, we your church by the Georges River…

"We would like to acknowledge, the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather today - the Dharug people this side of the Georges River and the Dharawal people to the south. We would also like to pay our respects to the elders past, present and emerging. They are the people who for thousands of years fulfilled the creation mandate of our creator God, and we honour them for their stewardship of this great land.

Jesus, your ministry was to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. We pray, your ministry be our vision too - you may open our hearts with compassion and see our Indigenous peoples with dignity and honour, to co-labour with them in the care for our natural environment, to be an advocating voice for justice, to lift up the oppressed, proclaim your favour. And we ask this in the name and power of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ.


“We are all part of the story." Ok, well what part of the story are we writing today and into the future as the dominant culture? Are we choosing ignorance over truth? What are we teaching our children? Are we giving them an appreciation for Indigenous culture and for the Australian environment they worked so faithfully to tend? Are we turning toward Indigenous people or away? What would Jesus do if He were you?