23.09.10 16:59 Age: 1 yrs

Living Letters visit to Australia completed



A World Council of Churches’ Living Letters team recently visited the Northern Territory of Australia visiting the communities of Galiwink’u, Mapuru, Wadeye, Hermannsburg, Amoonguna, Mount Nancy Town Camps.


The group visited the region at the invitation of the National Council of Churches of Australia (NCCA) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC).


The group filed the following report.


The World Council of Churches’ Living Letters visit to Australia has now concluded in Darwin, Northern Territory (NT). The Team spent the past week visiting communities at Galiwink’u, Mapuru, Wadeye, Hermannsburg, Amoonguna, Mount Nancy Town Camps. 


They also spoke to students at Nungalinya College and Aboriginal Anglican clergy from around the NT diocese who were meeting in Darwin. Many of these communities are very remote and several hundred kilometres from each other.


The team expressed its gratitude to the Aboriginal people and communities who generously gave their time and shared their stories with delegates. They are particularly grateful for the warm welcome shown by all the communities. 


The visit has been a profound experience for all delegates. Some expressed shock at what they saw and heard and said “we did not realise this was still happening in Australia”. They particularly expressed concern about the discrimination, oppression and racism they observed.


As Indigenous and marginalised peoples themselves, the team was able to connect their own experiences with the stories and experiences they heard about the on-going colonisation and systemic racism in Australia. Just as Jesus challenged the lawmakers and Pharisees of his time the Living Letters team challenged “these unjust and racist structures and systems and question the Australian lawmakers about how they conduct their business…”


Despite hearing about hope for change with the new Labour Government in 2007, and its promise to “reset the relationship” with Aboriginal Peoples, the team observed that the Government has failed to do so. In fact, in every place, the team heard that life has not improved under the Intervention rather it has deteriorated.


However, despite hearing of “despair, anguish and confusion”, the team were also touched by the strength of resistance shown in communities. They observed that the “oldest living, surviving culture in the world” has not been crushed. The will of the people to stand up for their rights has heartened us and inspired us to action”.


The team felt a great responsibility to support and encourage the Aboriginal Peoples’ resistance against injustice and strongly affirmed Aboriginal rights to self-determination and to live in Traditional Lands. The team’s message to Aboriginal Peoples was “your fight is our fight”.


The Living Letters team committed themselves to speak out and tell the world about what they had seen and heard in Australia. They also urged the National Council of Churches in Australia and the World Council of Churches to take action to support the rights of Aboriginal Peoples. At a public forum to mark the end of the visit and to release a statement the team were heartened by the response of Church leaders who committed to do more and to take the team’s findings to relevant decision making bodies, in Australia and at the International level.


The Living Letters team was also pleased to note the support to the visit and its findings announced later by the Uniting Church in Western Australia and the Archbishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia.



More information about the WCC Living Letters visit to Australia


Information on NATSIEC