19 June 2024

Sense of urgency at 2023 Surrender as referendum looms

Surrender Festival 2023 encourages the broader church to foster strong relationships with Indigenous Christians. Photo: iStock.

Maya Pilbrow

17 March 2023

A Christian organisation dedicated to amplifying voices from the margins will host a panel of First Nations Christian leaders to discuss the voice to parliament referendum.

Surrender Co will hold a one-day event in Melbourne on 25 March. The conference is titled ‘The Way of Peace’ and will feature discussions on the voice, climate justice, and social enterprises.

Featured panellist Safina Stewart said this year’s festival had a sense of urgency.

Ms Stewart, a Wuthithi and Mabuiag Island woman, said she hoped the panel discussing the voice referendum would inspire people to mobilise within their communities towards Aboriginal justice and build lasting relationships with First Nations people.

“This referendum will be a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said. “We invite the church’s support.”

Ms Stewart said First Nations perspectives were unique and necessary and should be seen as an asset for the broader Christian church.

Read more: Vicar calls for permanent state of repentance over treatment of Indigenous peoples 

Surrender Co chief executive Craig Petty said a key feature of the organisation was its prioritisation of First Nations voices.

“[We’re] making space to pass the microphone to First Nations people,” he said.

Mr Petty said Melbourne did not have a huge population of Indigenous leaders in ministry spaces.

He said concerted effort went into organising and maintaining strong relationships with First Nations leaders.

Read more: Bible being used to subjugate Indigenous Australians: Pattel-Gray

Alongside Ms Stewart, the conference will feature Pastor Ray Minniecon and Aunty Jean Phillips among others.

Ms Stewart said her relationship with Surrender Co went back two decades.

She said being invited back to numerous Surrender events made her realise the organisation was interested in fostering a long-lasting relationship with her.

“Surrender was where I first felt seen and heard,” she said.

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