Christians and Indigenous Politics

More ignorance from a beginner. My reading of the books I have commented on in recent posts is that a significant change in the debate has taken place in the last decade. It is significant that much of the change of opinion has come from anthropologists and others who once held a different view.

The thing that has surprised some on the Left is that the Welfare-Rights paradigm appears to have overseen a significant decline in quality of life for Aborigines in remote communities. The suggestions as to how to reverse this are varied, although there is a kind of consensus that the younger generation is the key, and education and the life they are taught is crucial.

Christians have been involved in Aboriginal affairs from the time of white settlement. They have had a varied report card, but increasingly there is recognition that their role has generally been positive and in some cases crucial to the preservation of Indigenous life and culture.

It is possible that those who live in the southern cities will hear little about all this. And those who have a heart for it will be working away at it somewhere else. Political persuasion was a crucial part of the establishment of Christian work in Northern Australia. No doubt there are Christian politicians with a heart for Indigenous brothers and sisters. But the public debate is wider than politicians.

Two recent books have pointed the way. In the last chapter of “One Land One Saviour”*, John Harris makes a strong plea for urgent action to help Aboriginal churches. In general, whether it is missionaries or Government Interveners, consulting and listening, he says, is the crucial starting point (p 234).

Murray Seiffert’s “Refuge on the Roper”**, also has a final chapter in which he begins to reflect on the issues connected with the Intervention (p139).

But my feeling is that more is needed in the public debate from the point of view of Christians (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) who know about these things.

*Peter Carroll & Steve Etherington (eds), One Land, One Saviour: Seeing Aboriginal lives transformed by Christ. CMS Australia 2008. ISBN 9780947316051

** Murray Seiffert, Refuge on the Roper : The Origins of Roper River Mission, Ngukurr. Acorn Press, 2008. ISBN: 0908284675.

Dale Appleby

About Dale Appleby

Dale Appleby is a graduate of Moore College, served in parishes in Perth, Northern Territory and Jakarta. Presently the minister at Willetton, in the suburbs of Perth. Married to Joy with four kids and seven grand-kids (at last count).
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