7 July 2022
An Indigenous church leader says Anglicans could be part of ground breaking change for First Nations’ Victorians.
The Reverend Canon Helen Dwyer would like Anglicans to support Victoria’s Indigenous communities beyond NAIDOC week by actively seeking to understand what was important to them and engaging with them.
Ms Dwyer said that would include learning about how Aboriginal Victorians were working towards a treaty, as well as the truth-telling process.
“Australia remains the only Commonwealth nation without a treaty with their First Nations’ people. So, Victoria is leading the way In Australia,” she said.
A St Paul’s Cathedral Canon and chaplain of Melbourne Grammar school, Ms Dwyer’s comments came as the Yoorrook Justice Commission released an interim report this week.
It details the harm and pain experienced by 200 elders, and the ongoing effects of discriminatory policies and beliefs.
Among the many who had related their experiences was Uncle Jack Charles who had spoken about his life-long struggles after being removed from his mother as an infant.
Ms Dwyer said Mr Charles’ story was traumatising in a variety of ways, but that the injustices towards him and others were continuing.
“While it can be cathartic to share your story, it’s only cathartic and useful when it’s listened to and acknowledged and affirmed,” Ms Dwyer said.
But Victorians could take charge of their own understanding of Indigenous people and culture.
The commission, and the First Peoples’ Assembly’s efforts to work toward self-determination, were a current opportunity for people to educate themselves about history and stay informed about what perpetuates their trauma, Ms Dwyer said.
She said just through reading the Yoorook Justice Commission documents people might start to have questions about colonialism, and could then research further.
“It’s happening before their eyes. They can be a part of really positive change in Victoria,” she said.
People could also simply watch television to learn more.
“Watch what’s on this week, watch the documentaries, watch some of the First Nations’ fictional stories. While they’re fiction they still have really important elements like clan systems and perhaps language in it. Just because it’s fiction it doesn’t mean it can’t be informative and educational,” Ms Dwyer said.