Rev Richard Cassady reflects on the importance of storytelling within Indigenous culture and his own faith journey working as a prison chaplain and an educator. Most recently, Richard led a Walk on Country with members of the Synod Executive Leadership Team, facilitated by Australians Together.
Communicating through story and narrative is part and parcel of my people’s DNA. Tell me a story, and I will glean the principle from the narrative. Indeed, as we as people of faith engage with the Christian narrative, the gospels and the Christ story exemplify how we live out our own faith story.
I remember my wife Tammy listening to me prattle on about a particular issue; with gentleness and wisdom she provided her own perspective, which in that moment made me stop and pivot on my position before I tumbled past the point of no return.
I share this analogy to highlight the principle of approaching story from different angles, whether it be gender, culture, race, religion, physical or mental capabilities, life experience etc. We are enriched by the diversity of voices that enable us as a people of faith to discern our place, time, season and space in the vineyard of God’s reign. That level of self-awareness of our human limitations can produce a different approach at times if we embrace the other.
Some years ago I served as a prison chaplain where some prisons had 70 per cent Indigenous representation. In the light of the cross, the heaviness of these Indigenous men’s stories made me understand that my interaction with Australian lifestyles and practices meant that I was not hearing the voices I needed to hear.
At the time, I discerned that I was complicit in the collective history of our nation as I enjoyed the benefits of a quality lifestyle and had bought into the systems and social construct. In consultation with Tammy, my wife took a teaching position and we moved to Palm Island.
Recently General Secretary Rev Heather den Houting made mention of the Walk on Country program. As a Nywaigi and Manbarra man, hosting this event and sharing the story of my people through the regions of Mungalla station and Palm Island was a true privilege. Participants were able to learn from a different perspective, with time for reflection.
I continue to pray for a compassionate people who have the patience and persistence to engage in strategies to right the wrongs of the last 200 or more years, and to help us find ways to hear those voices and perspectives that may not intersect with our own paradigms. I also pray that another faith group might rise up and dare to carry the Shalom story and the voices of hope from Cape York, for Tammy and I remain committed to education outcomes for all children.
Rev Richard Cassady