As we move into the second century of a Federated Australia, reconciliation remains both a challenge and an important key to our future.
The time has come for all Australians to work together for a decent future for every member of this country and in particular to work towards eradicating the gaps in education, health, employment and self esteem that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians...
Tragically, because of ignorance, violence and even through misguided efforts of well meaning people, including those in the Church, the Indigenous culture of this country has been largely destroyed or lost.
We can now admit this; we can acknowledge that even the best intentions of good people in hindsight did not always serve the best interest of Indigenous Australians. Many Aboriginal people were removed from land, family and from traditional lifestyle. The grief and pain that this has caused not only these people but the generations after them is enormous.
Today is a day to acknowledge that we can move forward. The healing process will take time but with the will to change and grow it can happen. As Christians we have the Scriptures as our inspiration. St Paul reminds us that God has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation. "So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." The work of reconciliation is based on the twin first commandment of love of God and love of neighbour. The beginning of both is knowledge and understanding.
In terms of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, Pope John Paul II said at Alice Springs in 1986:
The Church of Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you (the Indigenous peoples of Australia) have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.
John Paul II at Blatherskite Park, Alice Springs in 1986
These words are as true today as they were fifteen years ago. They are words that indicate the path towards Reconciliation - listening, changing and receiving...