28 September 2023

Christians must push for change for Indigenous people: Common Grace

Common Grace’s Bianca Manning and Aunty Jean Phillips share stories of Indigenous Christians’ achievements. Picture: Supplied by Common Grace

Jenan Taylor

5 July 2022

A Christian organisation has urged Australians to celebrate the work of First Nations’ church leaders this NAIDOC week.

The theme for this year is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!, a clarion call to keep pushing for changes that recognise the contributions of and support positive change for Indigenous people.

Common Grace said that in keeping with that theme, it was focussing on sharing the stories of past Aboriginal Christian leaders in the spirit of recognising their contributions to the Australian church.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice coordinator Bianca Manning said often their achievements went unheard, but that this year they had worked with Aunty Jean Phillips to bring attention to them.

Ms Manning said the stories that would be shared included those of William Cooper, Aunty Pearl Gibbs and Pastor Don Brady.

“So, we wanted Australians to reflect on their hard work and the sacrifices they had made to create change, and to feel encouraged to do the same,” Ms Manning said.

Read more: Indigenous name change an option for Coburg church

But Ms Manning said another of Common Grace’s major aims through and beyond NAIDOC week was to keep encouraging people to speak up about raising the age of criminal responsibility.

She said the group was asking people to take practical action and write to their state premier or attorney-general about it, and had produced a template letter to make it easier to do so.

“We’re trying to advocate that the age be raised to at least 14 and not 12 years old, which is what human rights standards also say it should be,” Ms Manning said.

St Augustine’s Moreland vicar the Reverend Angela Cook said she often uses Common Grace material to involve and engage with Christian Indigenous perspectives in her church services.

Ms Cook said there were no Indigenous people among her congregation that she was aware of.

She also said that it was sobering that census statistics showed there were fewer Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders or people who have connections with them in Victoria than ever before.

“I think that’s one of the sad things that we as Victorians have to face, the fact that there’s just much less representation. So, there are fewer voices to hear and that’s why it’s important to hear them,” Ms Cook said.

The Common Grace template is available at Raise the Age Letter .

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