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Australians urged to respect elders, past as they look to future

Common Grace’s Bianca Manning (left, with Aunty Jean Phillips), wants Christians to remember the efforts of Indigenous rights activists and leaders. Picture: supplied.
Jenan Taylor
1 July 2023

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains names of deceased people.

Indigenous leaders are urging Australians to embrace what First Peoples and other elders can teach them as they look to the country’s future.

Aboriginal Bishop Chris McLeod said Australians could learn much from Indigenous elders many of whom embodied deep cultural wisdom and traditions.

Christian organisation Common Grace said it was important that Australians considered the past, how they got to where they were today, and who came before, as they looked to where they wanted to go.

It comes ahead of NAIDOC week celebrations with its For our Elders theme.

Reflecting on the significance of the theme, Bishop McLeod said one of the greatest traditions First Peoples had gifted the nation with was respect for elders because they had much to teach.

He drew attention to the Christian contributions of late Anglican leaders, including the first national Aboriginal Bishop Arthur Malcolm, the last national Torres Strait Islander Bishop Saibo Mabo and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council deputy chair the late Father Victor Blanco.

Read more: Christians offered Indigenous Voice advocacy training

Bishop McLeod said Australians were fortunate to still have the great wisdom and leadership of the first Aboriginal woman to be ordained in the Anglican Church of Australia, the Reverend Gloria Shipp, author of God of Holy Dreaming prayer the Reverend Lenore Parker, and climate change activist Aunty Dr Rose Elu.

Gomeroi woman and Common Grace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Justice coordinator Bianca Manning said this year’s NAIDOC theme was a reminder to not forget those who paved the way so others could have the opportunities today.

Ms Manning said particularly in the lead up to a referendum for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, she would be reflecting on the contributions of Aboriginal leaders and activists.

These included Uncle William Cooper who fought for Indigenous rights and took a stand took against injustices, including those perpetrated by the Nazis.

Ms Manning said she would also be thinking of the efforts of Aunty Pearl Gibbs who was pivotal in the 1967 referendum to change the Australian Constitution.

She urged Christians to read and reflect on Job 12:12 “Is not wisdom found among the aged, does not life bring understanding.”

For further NAIDOC week information and resources, see here.

For Christian resources, see here.

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