Safina Stewart is a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island woman – but Australia hasn’t always felt like home.
A Wuthithi and Mabuiag Island woman, Safina has also grown up cross culturally in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. She holds her Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture close to her heart – and she also has profound Christian faith, often referring to God as “Creator”.
That relationship with Creator is what saved her in her darkest moments – and what sustains her as she deals with racism and ignorance in the lead up to the Voice to Parliament Referendum.
“We have wanted to stand with deep dignity that is deeply connected to our cultural heritage… and comes from our great Creator,” Safina told Finding Hope.
“And yet, it has been met by an environment that has been quite hostile.
“It has been a lot of work, a lot of processing… and that’s on top of our normal cultural load.”
A beautiful intersection – Christianity and Aboriginal spirituality
As the Relationships and Storytelling Coordinator for Common Grace, Safina is passionate about the intersection between Christianity and Aboriginal spirituality, which has been crucial to her understanding of the land and the world around her. However, Safina is often met with confusion as to how the two can co-exist but, for her, it’s never been complex.
“We know our land, our waters, our plants, our animals,” Safina said.
“We have been taught by Creator how to care for all of these.
“These stories, this land… it’s like the Bible to us.”
Reconciliation not possible – but makarrata might be
As the referendum date looms, Safina feels the deep weight that has been entrusted to her as a leader in her community. While Safina, a passionate advocate for the Yes vote, hopes that The Voice to Parliament is enshrined in the Constitution, she acknowledges the damage that these campaigns have already caused to First Nations people, and the country.
As for what comes next, Safina isn’t sure that reconciliation is possible, but she hopes for something else instead.
“Reconciliation is based on the premise that we had good connection before… and we can restore what was,” Safina said.
“But, I can’t say for Aboriginal people…that the relationship was good to start off with.
“Reconciliation is based on the premise that we had good connection before… Makarrata means coming together after a struggle,” – Safina Stewart
“But, we have heard, through the Uluru Statement of the Heart, the word makarrata.
“Makarrata means coming together after a struggle… an audacious hope that things will get better.
“And it’s one that we cannot fulfil ourselves without the loving Creator Spirit.
“So, I will continue this journey of truth telling… of being an ambassador to my family and community.
“But I don’t do that for me, I do it for ‘we’. Because we need each other.”
Listen to Safina Stewart’s full episode on Finding Hope in the player above.
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