Erin Mawhinney reflects on the importance of the Day of Mourning which will be celebrated on 19 January.
In the spirit of the Covenant relationship between the Uniting Church in Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, the Queensland Synod invites congregations to observe a Day of Mourning in their worship services this Sunday 19 January (the Sunday before Australia Day).
This was endorsed by the Fifteenth Assembly at the request of our sisters and brothers in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
The reason we do this is that 26 January is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet. Australia Day is currently celebrated on this date, which is a painful reminder to many First People of the trauma and injustices that have occurred since then.
For non-Indigenous people, the Day of Mourning is an opportunity to show solidarity with our First Peoples brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a time to pause and remember, and to express our sadness for the way in which people were treated by their fellow human beings. We acknowledge and mourn the massacres of men, women and children, the introduction of disease, the dispossession of land, the prevention of cultural practices and language, the removal of children from their families, the stolen wages …
We acknowledge that there is ongoing disadvantage and discrimination. We acknowledge that the system on which the land now known as Australia has been built these last 230 years is a system that is not equitable to all people who live here.
This day is a reminder to us that if we consider ourselves followers of Christ, then it is not enough to say, “I wasn’t there at the time so it’s not my fault”.
We are called to love God and to love each other. “Each other” does not mean just the people in our families or the people that we worship with—it means everyone, and especially the disadvantaged and the vulnerable.
It means being advocates for a fair system, speaking out when we see injustice, and standing with our brothers and sisters in times of sorrow. This is why we will gather on the Sunday before Australia Day.
Erin Mawhinney is the Project Officer (Covenant Action Plan) with the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod.