Youth PoWR meets the Uluru Statement

Participants of "Youth PoWR meets the Uluru Statement". Photo: Laura Bellissimo Photography

Participants of "Youth PoWR meets the Uluru Statement". Photo: Laura Bellissimo Photography

On 28 May 2023, Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions), an initiative of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations and the Challenging Racism Project at Western Sydney University, co-hosted “Youth PoWR meets the Uluru Statement”. The organisers wanted to ensure young adults were informed so that they could confidently walk the path of reconciliation with our indigenous sisters and brothers. The event featured “Walking Together”, an interactive workshop aimed to foster purpose and understanding about the proposed Voice to Parliament. It was facilitated by First Nations woman Nicole Laupepa and second-generation holocaust survivor Jacqui Parker from Youth Off the Streets.

Alicja Borciuch presented the Acknowledgement of Country from The Sydney Statement, the interfaith charter generated over two years by Youth PoWR and launched in 2001.

Fr Patrick McInerney welcomed everyone and highlighted the importance of the referendum on the Voice to Parliament later in the year, that whatever the outcome, it will shape Australian society for better or for worse for years to come. He shared such historical consequences from his own family history. There were no Aboriginal people where he grew up in rural South Australia in the 1960s because the original inhabitants had died of European-imported disease or been killed or driven off the land by the first settlers in the 1830s.

Professor Kevin Dunn added his words of welcome, highlighting the work of Western Sydney University in researching, educating, and combatting racism, an enduring blight on Australia’s history.

The three-hour workshop followed, during which participants were taken on a journey beginning with an exploration of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the sense of First Nations sovereignty to land, or Mother Nature, as a spiritual notion.

Participants gained greater insight into The Uluru Statement as the invitation to Australians to walk together with First Nations Australians by establishing a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution and the Makarrata Commission for the purpose of treaty-making, or agreement-making, and truth-telling about their history. Key efforts to treaty and truth-telling are acknowledging First Nations people’s pain and trauma so that healing may begin, not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, but for all Australians.

Nicole and Jacqui were generous in sharing their own lived experience of the pain and trauma of their histories. They recounted personal stories of the discrimination, racism, and violence that they have endured personally and systemically and the intergenerational trauma this entails.

Nonetheless, they spoke with hope. Nicole spoke of her love of being an Aboriginal woman for the grace, richness, and deeply spiritual culture this gifts her. Jacqui shared stories of the profound healing initiated by people in her ancestral land of Germany through their public acknowledgment and recognition of the horror and devastation of the Holocaust.

The presenters Jacqui Parker [L] and , Nicole Laupepa [R]. Photo: Laura Bellissimo Photography

The facilitators, Jacqui Parker [L] and Nicole Laupepa [R]. Photo: Laura Bellissimo Photography

The participants appreciated the honesty and openness of the presenters. We came to realise the breadth and depth of pain and suffering in Australia’s history, the need to listen to the voice of the original inhabitants who have cared for this land for over 65,000 years, and to commit to walk with them the paths of respect, reconciliation and recognition.

Although the participants in Youth PoWR Meets the Uluru Statement were few in number, we became convinced that we can make a difference by listening to and supporting the voice of indigenous people who are asking to be heard and by sharing that conviction with family, friends and colleagues in our various places of work, study, play, and worship. We commit to a better Australia for all Australians, those who have lived here for 65,000 years and those who have arrived here in the last two centuries.

Rev Dr Patrick McInerney is the Director and Kim Chong is the Media & Community Liaison at the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations.

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Comments (3)

  1. Michael Curtin:
    Jul 12, 2023 at 12:45 PM

    I went to hear Nicole and Jacqui give this three hour experience last week in Brisbane. Though I had gained a lot of knowledge about what they talked about, it was still good to hear real “voices “ about the referendum issues.

    Reply

  2. Mary:
    Jul 14, 2023 at 05:28 AM

    Youth PoWR sounds really good. Thank you for all your efforts.

    Reply

  3. Bernadine Kelly:
    Jul 14, 2023 at 09:41 AM

    Keep up the Great work for the Yes Voice !!!

    Reply


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