Australia Day has always been pretty low key at our place; a day to get some things done around the house and maybe have friends over for a pizza or a curry.
It’s right that a country such as Australia take time to give thanks for what has been achieved here. We are, in many ways, the envy of the world; a place of freedom, the rule of law, of opportunity.
It didn’t happen by accident, and it was at times hard-fought. It doesn’t stay this way by accident, either. It is all of us taking responsibility for the society we create; modelling to each other what it means in everyday life to live up to the vision, the hopes and commitments of our forebears.
The spheres of life in our nation that have contributed to our common good are almost too numerous to mention—entrepreneurs, trade unionists, primary production pioneers, mining and extractive industries, science, education, a free press, all the social and governing institutions that strengthen our common life and help us express our hopes and ideals.
We have much to be thankful for; much to tell each other in encouragement on the journey to growing and developing as a nation, in being ready to hand over to the next generation what a generous hand has given us.
As a church, at our beginnings in 1977, we issued a statement to the nation that articulated that we would stand up for the common good, for the dignity of all people and for the integrity of creation. Across our nation the Uniting Church has committed itself locally, regionally and nationally in a multitude of ways to this statement.
One of the later expressions of our life in the Uniting Church in Australia has been the covenant with the First Peoples. That commitment to walk together has opened us up to hearing a story that remains understated and unresolved in our life; the story of the First People’s dispossession and marginalisation, of the suffering they endured in so many ways and still endure today.
Yesterday, the Sunday before Australia Day, I participated with 120 young adults from the Uniting Church in a service of mourning for this unresolved story in our life, recognising the dispossession and disruption.
It’s a story that we need to keep before our nation; not in fear or guilt, but in a commitment to keep to the work of building a society that does truly welcome and honour all people. A society that isn’t scared of its failures, that will not hide from hard truths; a nation whose ideals include reconciliation and all that that means.
This is a nation that reflects the kingdom of God; that brings glory to the God revealed in Jesus Christ.