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Church must embrace Uluru Statement, says Indigenous Priest

Church should instigate a number of measures in response to the Statement, including appointing an Indigenous bishop

The Revd Glenn Loughrey in his painting studio

By Stephen Cauchi

July 6 2017Glen Iris priest and Wiradjuri artist Glenn Loughrey has called on the Anglican Church to affirm the Uluru Statement in a hard-hitting sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Revd Loughrey’s sermon, at a choral evensong to mark National Reconciliation Week, came just a few days after the First Nations National Convention released the Statement.

The Statement argues for a First Nations Voice to sit alongside the lower and upper houses in Federal Parliament and rejects acknowledgement of Indigenous peoples in the Australian constitution, instead calling for a formal treaty.

Revd Loughrey said the Uluru Statement needed to be translated “into the life of this Diocese and the Anglican Church of Australia”.

He called for the Church to instigate a number of measures in response to the Statement, including appointing an Indigenous bishop.

The Statement offered hope for Indigenous people, said Revd Loughrey, but it was unlikely to be realised.

“The reality is our political leaders are not committed to it and have already begun the process of watering it down,” he said.

Revd Loughrey, 62, also said that since Australian settlement, there had been “destruction of Indigenous peoples by people who worshipped in our churches”.

The Anglican Church had been a church party to such wrongs, he said.                             

Measures such as appointing an Indigenous bishop were “moderate but necessary steps if we are to take seriously our task of putting right the wrongs we as a Church have been party to,” said Revd Loughrey.

He also called for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Anglican Commission to be “fully funded and empowered in the spirit of the Uluru document as a fully representative body with authority to speak into Anglican policy”.

As well, the Church should “work to fund a First Nations person to educate parishes in this Diocese”.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, in response to the Uluru Statement, has rejected the idea of an Indigenous parliamentary chamber.

Revd Loughrey is a member of the Wiradjuri people, whose heartland is central New South Wales, and has spent much of his life in New South Wales and Queensland. He has been priest at St Oswald’s in Glen Iris since 2015.

Prior to being ordained at Grafton Cathedral in 2009, Revd Loughrey worked as a public servant, a Salvation Army officer, an executive officer of the Australian Kidney Foundation, in business working with non-profit organisations, a lay minister, and as the manager of a drop-in centre in the Australian Navy.

His Christian journey has not been a smooth one. Raised as an Anglican from a young age, he left the Church in the 1970s to join the Salvation Army.

He told TMA he later left the Army “over some issues” and “went into a fairly destructive mode”.

“Because of my Aboriginality, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder – because of the violence in my family, the violence in the community that I lived with.”

However, he came back to the Anglican Church around 2001, joining St Clement’s in Stafford, Brisbane.

“I came back to the Church and they suggested that maybe I should become a priest! So I started on that journey and it was a fairly long and convoluted one.”

Married to Gaye and with a daughter, Katrina, Revd Loughrey is also an artist, utilising the Indigenous “dot” style of painting. He exhibited a selection of his paintings after his sermon.

It is a hobby that he only took up recently, he told TMA.

As a school chaplain, he escorted some students in 2012 to the site of the Sandaken Death Marches in Borneo. The Marches, inflicted by the Japanese in World War 2, killed over 2000 Allied prisoners-of-war and are widely considered the worst atrocity visited on Australian troops during the war.

He wrote “a lot of poetry” for the trip and then a colleague asked him to draw some pictures as well – even though he had not drawn before.

“I said, how do I do art? The art teacher said, get a big piece of white canvas and fill it with paint and see what happens.”

The results were promising. “She said I like your lines… you should do art.”

His art only flourished when he moved to St Oswald’s, he said.

“It’s fairly meditative… it’s something I do for a couple of hours every night. I have a house full of paintings.

“It’s about getting out of yourself. I could have had a bad day but you get home at night-time and just for two hours it transforms my day.”

 Revd Loughrey said dot art was not about “trying to be perfect”. “If a little bit of paint goes the wrong way… that’s the way to was meant to be. You don’t change it, you just move on to the next one.” 

 He said that he had not taken any formal lessons.

“It’s all self-taught,” he said. “Every time I’ve asked an artist or an artist’s school to take me on and teach me they’ve said, we’re not going to teach you because you’ve got your own style that works.

“You need to stay with what you’re doing.”