2 February 2023

Australia is a crime scene where innocent lives were lost: Aboriginal leaders

Aboriginal Christian Leader Bianca Manning presenting at the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit at Parliament House last year. Image: Supplied.

Kirralee Nicolle

26 January 2023

This 26 January is a time for grief and collective mourning, Aboriginal Christian leaders say.

While some in the nation are set to celebrate Australia Day, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have remembered the date as a Day of Mourning, Survival Day and more recently, Invasion Day.

Indigenous elder and Anglican minister the Reverend Ray Minniecon said the church had a responsibility to tell the truth about its crimes against Aboriginal people since colonisation.

Read more: Indigenous treaty outlook might be rosier under Andrews government

“Australia is a crime scene,” Mr Minniecon said. “We’re the innocent ones. We didn’t do anything. What did we do to deserve this?”

“It’s no use going to church on a Sunday and saying ‘Lord, I’m sorry that I’ve done this to the Aboriginal people’,” he said. “What have you done or didn’t do? Repentance must be based upon the facts of crimes that have been committed.”

Read more: ‘God’s called me to stand up’: Professor Anne Pattel-Gray

Common Grace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice coordinator Bianca Manning said the day was one filled with emotion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Particularly when other Australians are celebrating that day, often we can feel quite isolated,” she said.

Ms Manning said Christians and followers of Jesus should take a posture of humility, listening, learning and understanding about the day. She said Christians should recognise 26 January was not a day to celebrate, and to join in mourning with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends.

Read more: How Anglicans can help advance change for Indigenous Victorians

Ms Manning said Common Grace was hoping Christians would join them on the journey of seeking justice through voting yes on the referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament and advocating to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

“As Christians, I think it’s an important time for us to stand up and deeply listen, but also to raise our voices,” she said.

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