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‘Beaut’ award recognises Congress head

Vince Ross says he is determined not to let his recent elevation to high-profile national positions get in the way of his purpose.

The Madi-Madi man from the Murrumbidgee Area has had a busy year.

He has been elected Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and was named National Aboriginal Elder (male) for the next 12 months at the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) awards on July 8.

“For the first time in my life, I got to the microphone and I was lost for words!” said a beaming Mr Ross in between sessions at the Uniting Church’s 11th national Assembly, meeting in Brisbane July 5-11. “Didn’t take me long to get it back again though. It was a beautiful moment.

“It was hard to take it all in. I had no idea. I knew I was on the shortlist but I didn’t realise how short the list was!”

Mr Ross said the position itself wouldn’t alter what he already does, but it will probably require his attendance at events.

“I’m not one for the upfront sort of thing. I do it as part of who I am, but I am more concerned about the issues that are out there with our people and for all people where they are struggling.

“I guess it will mean being a little more available to people in the community. But not to lose sight of the main things you’ve got to do.”

As far as the Congress position goes, he sees it as an educational experience and his opportunity to make a contribution to the Uniting Church, to Congress and the Australian community.

“It is not about status or position. It is about the appropriate time, of where we are at in our life and the ministry of Congress.

“It is a good learning curve for me. I feel that I can bring to the Congress, even in this leadership role, something to take us a lot further forward.”

Mr Ross said the “beaut” part about receiving the NAIDOC award was when the presenter was reading out all the great things the Congress had done.

“In a sense God was present on that platform. In that main event that witness was there of Congress and I just thank God for that.”

The NAIDOC award was announced to Assembly members at the celebration in Brisbane’s City Hall on Sunday July 9 and was met with elated applause.

Of his new public profile, Mr Ross said, “You don’t do it for votes or whatever. It is your passion, your commitment and I’ll go back and I’ll still be doing the same sort of things that I have been doing for a long time.

“It is lovely when people acknowledge that and say, ‘Hey that’s good stuff. Keep going.'”