Celebrating First Nations Catholics

by Dr. Robbie Lloyd

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have a long engagement with the Catholic Church, as do many others with different branches of the Christian faith. Right now there is a strong focus on all Australians honouring the timeless First Nations’ relations with and responsibilities for our whole continent, in the Uluru Statement from the Heart (https://ulurustatement.org/). It is time for “Voice, Treaty, Truth” to be on all our minds, and everyone is invited to join and hear the latest progress towards working together.

What some people may be unaware of is the rich movement of Aboriginal Catholics in NSW who have been working away in the 11 dioceses here for many decades. Together they work with their peers in the other States and Territories to make up the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC https://www.natsicc.org.au/nsw.html).

While the Uluru Statement movement grows across the country, there are strong moves towards Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) in Catholic organisations as well. This movement brings everyone into a listening relationship with their First People, to begin understanding what has often been hidden under our colonial history.

Two key Aboriginal women in the NSW Catholic movement are Dr Lisa Buxton, who runs the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry for the Sydney Archdiocese (https://www.aboriginal.sydneycatholic.org), and her colleague Doreen Flanders, who is the Lismore Diocese’s representative on NATSICC, and works as Aboriginal Education adviser for the Catholic Schools Office in Lismore.

We are all at a key point in our nation’s progress, when we can join together to open up to the Partnerships for Development that can make for a stronger and better church, which has reconciled with its past and built strong relationships of trust for the future. The Plenary Council is one of these historic opportunities, and so is the Reconciliation Action Planning (RAP) process, which you can start to explore with your own schools and parishes by visiting the Reconciliation Australia website https://www.reconciliation.org.au).

There will be more news soon about the Archdiocese’s moves towards developing its own RAP.