40 Stories: Letting God change us

Clyde Rigney was born in 1958 in Raukkan Aboriginal Community, in South Australia, a self-sustaining community for 200 years. He believes God is trying to teach us a lesson as a nation how to love our neighbour.

What I’m passionate about is that we actually help people to see that they can change their lives and also the lives of the next generation.

Well, I’m a child of a domestic violence family, a broken family. I’m the middle child with five siblings. Fathers and sons is a really interesting topic in my mind, in my heart. I wish I would have had a better time with my dad.

Like, my father says he loves me and I believe him, but he doesn’t know how to actually live that out. I never truly understood it till about 15 years ago; by that time I’m 40 years old. Sadly, I think my father wanted to be a better man but didn’t know how. He grew up in the 30s and 40s and 50s in this community.

[It was] quite a lot more difficult to live, I think, under the constraints of policies that impacted on Aboriginal people in that time. And we have to look at our past to understand our current position in contemporary Australia. I don’t think we can just say “Oh, that was just a tough situation.” I think my father, along with men of that era, were quite broken people, broken spirits is how I think about it.

How he and men of his age group literally felt that they didn’t have a place of value in their family and community – and therefore in their life. And I’m watching men die when they have not yet lived, watching a lot of our young men not even know what it’s truly like to be a man, because they just weren’t given the opportunity.

So for me, I have a passion to change that story for every family. I think that’s a real challenge for us because it sort of is the very thing that we miss out on knowing how to father ourselves. So we could easily make judgments on our parents without fully being aware of what shaped them.

Whether we like it or not, our shared history shaped us all to such a degree that our country is the country it is today because of it.

The 3 per cent of Aboriginal people in this nation have a rich story to share with the broader members of our nation and God intended it to be that way.

God had a big part to play in changing our lives. God can change all of our lives if we’re willing. We will treat each other really badly when we don’t understand that there’s a greater good that God wants for us, a greater good in God’s intentions for us. It really begins with me acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, like Micah talks about. If I can do those things, you know, hopefully someone else can do those things. All of a sudden we’ve got a group of people acting like God wants us to act. That’ll be fantastic.

We’re quite happy to be the people that God created us to be. We think we offer some things we want to contribute. We think this is an important mystery about unity that God wants to teach us, that the 3 per cent of Aboriginal people in this nation have a rich story to share with the broader members of our nation and that God intended it to be that way.

And I think it’s important for us to try to capture what that means. The challenge that’s been for Aboriginal Australia for so long, our place in this nation, our place that God intended, the things that have been truly unjust and continue to be that, what is the right thing to do when we’ve done the wrong thing for so long? How do we make things right? And we all know money’s not going to make that work. And I believe that relationship will make it right. It’s how we treat each other, how we acknowledge each other, accept that there are some things that we can’t sweep under the carpet. There are some things that we must come to terms with.

The way I think God sees me helps me tremendously in the way I see others.

We’ve treated that neighbour like they don’t matter and we never should have done that. You notice that I say “we” because we’ve all treated each other that way at times.

How do we see each other as men, Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal? Do we still see each other in that shared history picture? Or do we see ourselves in a shared future picture because I think that will determine then how we behave, how we treat ourselves and how we treat our neighbour. It’s something that I’m still battling with. The way I think God sees me helps me tremendously in the way I see others; it gives me a sense of clarity about why I should be forgiving, why I should be loving why I should be merciful. He loves me even when I’m at my worst, which drives me to want to do my best.

I think God is trying to teach us a lesson as a nation. Will we really love our neighbour? If we love him, who is our neighbour? Will we accept neighbours from anywhere? I think it’s a huge challenge to us as Australians. It’s is a huge challenge to us as Ngarrandjeri people. I’m grateful that he’s teaching me how to be on this planet and to realise that we are more the same than we think we are different. We all have one Father. I’m really grateful at the end of the day that God’s in charge of it all.

Clyde Rigney, Raukkan, SA, by 40 Stories is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.