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Stepping stones to reconciliation

Christel Palmer and Aunty Jean Phillips. Photo by Tom Kerr

TEAR AND Scripture Union have joined forces to create the Disciples Without Borders camp to be held from 12 to 16 December on Stradbroke Island.

Social justice advocates and camp directors, Lauren Ash and Christel Palmer, said the camp is about meeting Indigenous people, hearing their stories and learning about issues in the community that relate to them.

This is achieved through discipleship, music and games alongside a team of dedicated and experienced leaders.

Ms Palmer said events such as Disciples Without Borders give pathways for young people to become advocates and have a voice within our country.

“The importance of this event is that it targets young people who are starting to think about their world and what is happening around us,” said Ms Palmer.

“It gives an opportunity to explore that, particularly as an Australian young person.”

Ms Palmer emphasises the importance of looking at Australian history in relation to Indigenous people and exploring ways Australians can move towards reconciliation.

“It’s definitely a stepping stone to people going out to Aboriginal communities and spending more time there.

“We’re looking at what our faith says about justice and looking at issues in our community.”

The week-long camp is also offered as a Stepping Stone event which is an extension of the Uniting Church’s AboutFACE
(Faith and Culture Exchange) program.

Ms Ash, who is associated with Bayside Uniting Church, said that Stepping Stone events such as this play an important bridging role in breaking down cultural barriers.

“I think Stepping Stone events of this kind are really important to raise awareness about why the Uniting Church runs AboutFACE and, on a broader level, why it is so important that we, as a church, engage and journey with our Indigenous
brothers and sisters through programs like AboutFACE.”

AboutFACE and national Assembly faith development consultant, Rev Tom Kerr, said Stepping Stone events build relationships and understanding between Indigenous and non- Indigenous people.

“AboutFACE in the future will take on new forms and will look for more and more ways to promote Stepping Stone events,” he said.

“The fact that this particular Stepping Stone event has Uniting Church people working together with TEAR and SU is exciting for me as it lives up to our ‘Uniting’ ethos and honourable values about working in unity with the rest of Christendom and with any people of good will from the general community.”

Rev Mark Cornford, a university chaplain who is involved in AboutFACE, said the way Australians relate with the First People of this country is one of the most important issues facing our nation today.

“To engage with the First People is to recognise that this is not Europe; that this country was not empty when we came; and we did not have a right to take the land and dispossess the Aboriginal people,” he said.

“It is to recognise that Australia has never been and never will be a white Christian nation.

“Then hopefully Aboriginal people may know peace and hope in their own land and we will find ourselves better for it.”

Mr Cornford says the goal of Stepping Stone events is to bring non-Aboriginal people face to face with Aboriginal people to hear stories, share conversations and start to build relationships.

“As this happens, people discover a whole new story of Australia which is not just history but is aff ecting Aboriginal people

“This is only the beginning of the journey”

For more information email dwb@sucamps.org.au or to register go to suqld.org.au/camps/dwb

Photo : Christel Palmer and Aunty Jean Phillips. Photo by Tom Kerr