Reconciling is an Ongoing Experience

by Dr. Robbie Lloyd

First People all over the world have been working with colonial and post-colonial regimes for decades, to try to help them to understand that reconciling is a foundation for healthy nationhood.

Continuing to deny the oppression of Indigenous peoples is a cancer on the souls of those running nations founded as colonies.

Australia has suffered from this disease for a very long time, with famous political “leaders” choosing to portray truth telling about colonialism as “having a black armband view of our history.”

Thankfully such shallow, hollow and weasel words have been shown to be deceptive tricks.

For tens of thousands of Australians now, joining in the journey of Reconciliation over the past 20 years has helped them to stop, look and listen, to begin developing a truly grounded relationship to the truths of the places where they live, and the experiences of the ancestors who were there before them. And to receive their own experiences of the Spirit of Place. Plus taking time to reflect on the places and peoples of origin stretching back in their own family histories.

So as the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney begins its early phases of developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP – see more on this  process below), it is a timely moment for us all to reflect on those things we may need to reconcile in our own lives. The church offers processes to assist with those reflections, and actions that might arise in making amends, or recompensing. Just as nations founded in colonial oppression can move to make amends to those who have suffered.

From my personal experience, the missing element in much of the shared work of reconciliation is active Forgiveness.

Evidence from mental health and wellbeing studies, and Truth & Reconciliation work in places like South Africa post-apartheid, has shown that the greatest benefit flowing from the act of forgiveness is felt by those doing the forgiving. Of course, those who receive forgiveness gain immensely too. But for all of us who can get stuck in personal anger and resentment, bitterness or shutting down relationships, it is encouraging to know that the results are in – as Jesus taught us all: Forgiveness Works, full stop.

Thanks for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters and brothers understanding that, in ways many of us will never be able to fully comprehend, given the suffering they have been through.

Reconciliation Australia, the national coordinating body which oversees the RAP development program, describes a RAP as “a strategic document that supports an organisation’s business plan. It includes practical actions that will drive an organisation’s contribution to reconciliation both internally and in the communities in which it operates.”

“RAPs contribute to advancing the five dimensions of reconciliation by supporting organisations to develop respectful relationships and create meaningful opportunities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Each of the four RAP types (Reflect, Innovate, Stretch, Elevate) set out the minimum elements required from your organisation to build strong relationships, respect and opportunities within your organisation and community.”