Listen: Aunty Jean Phillips, Brooke Prentis and Scott Sandersin conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
Aboriginal elder, Aunty Jean Phillips, Common Grace Aboriginal spokesperson Brooke Prentis, and Common Grace CEO, Scott Sanders, joined Stephen O’Doherty for an extended Open House conversation, to explore what justice for Australia’s first people might look like and the role of churches in that long journey.
Christian movement, Common Grace, recently held an event in Sydney to bring together Christians for a Gracious Conversation about the justice issues facing Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples in this land we now call Australia. Common Grace is a movement of 40,000 Christians across Australia passionate about Jesus and therefore committed to loving our neighbour and challenging injustice in our society.
“Woven through the work of Common Grace is the belief that all humans are created in the image of God and are inherently valuable,” says Common Grace CEO Scott Sanders.
“Stolen land, stolen wages and stolen generations – we haven’t dealt with that truth properly.”
A journey of friendship
Brooke Prentis is an Aboriginal Christian leader with a heart to see the Church build meaningful friendships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christians, walking side by side towards justice. According to Brooke, “True healing in this land can only happen when we as Christians come together and talk about the issues we face as a nation, particularly for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
“This was an incredible opportunity to go deeper on the journey of friendship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christians. It was a powerful gathering that explored the important role of the Church and Christian believers in supporting Aboriginal Christian ministries and committing to a journey of friendship through prayer and action,” says Brooke, a descendant of the Waka Waka people.
Denied education, wages, citizenship
During the Gracious Conversation, Aunty Jean Phillips – one of this nation’s great Aboriginal Christian Leaders – shared her vision for a future of peace and justice. She has seen and personally experienced much of the harsh reality of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been treated by governments, institutions, churches, white society and individuals.
As an Aboriginal Christian woman, she has lived under the policies that unfairly targeted the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. During her lifetime people were denied an education, denied a wage, and were not even Australian citizens until the referendum of 1967. The background to Aboriginal and Torres Strait injustice in woven into the history of Australia; Common Grace have gathered some of the key documents and moments.
“We are all inherently valuable.”
Acknowledge the hurt
The surprising thing is that despite everything, Aunty Jean carries all of that injustice without being negative and embittered. Of course, she knows the pain and hurt and wants it recognised and acknowledged but her eyes are firmly fixed on a vision for healing in this land, creating a better world of harmony and justice.
Aunty Jean Phillips was born on Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission over 80 years ago and is still doing full time ministry long after other people would have retired. Aunty Jean started out in ministry with the Aborigines Inland Mission (AIM) and for over 60 years she has faithfully followed Jesus, focusing on justice, and serving those living in poverty.
She has served many Aboriginal communities and churches of all denominations, a beautiful example of ecumenism in practice. It is Aunty Jean who has raised up the next generations of Aboriginal Christian leaders, and has called non-Aboriginal Christians to come on the journey, she is thankful for those that have answered the call.
Traumatised but still believers
Around 65 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people identify as Christian, but some have rejected it. Brooke Prentice believes that rejection arises most often from personal hurt as they dealt with the various Churches or the Aboriginal Missions.
“I guess that’s where some of our great Aboriginal Christian leaders, like Aunty Jean, have inspired us, because even though they’ve suffered trauma potentially at the hands of the church or church run missions, they still faithfully follow Jesus, and that’s an inspiration to other younger Aboriginal Christian leaders.” says Brooke.
“I think sometimes the church (of all denominations) doesn’t talk enough about poverty and what that means (especially among Aboriginal people). Concepts of stolen land, stolen wages and stolen generations – we haven’t dealt with that truth properly, and as the Church, we are seen as believing in the truth and being truth tellers so we’ve got a big responsibility to tell the truth of our nation, and it’s about whether we can wake up to that truth and be the leaders of telling that truth.” says Brooke.
What’s In A Name?
‘Common Grace’ is the theological term referring to the grace God shows to all without distinction: not just Christians, but all people. As the old saying goes, God’s life-giving rain falls on all – the just and the unjust. His sun shines on both ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ alike.
As the movement says on its website, “Simply put, Common Grace is the non-discriminating, all-inclusive power of God’s love that is reflected in the goodness of creation. And which we see in full in Christ who lived, died and rose for everyone. The concept of Common Grace is a key element of campaigns at Common Grace movement. Common Grace seek to embody the beauty, generosity and justice found in Jesus”.
To listen to the podcast of this conversation click the red play button at the top of the page, or you can subscribe to Open House podcasts in iTunes and they will appear in your feed.