A-Z of National Reconciliation Week 2021 events for Christians

Australia’s annual National Reconciliation Week (NRW) begins today (27 May) and extends until 3 June. It is, in the words of Reconciliation Australia, “a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia”.

Reconciliation Australia’s theme for 2021 is ‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’ – a theme they hope will “urge the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action”.

“Reconciliation is more than raising awareness and knowledge,” explains Reconciliation Australia on their website. “As a nation, and importantly, as people, we need to move from ‘safe’ to ‘brave’ in order to advance reconciliation.”

NRW’s start and finish dates commemorate two significant milestones in Australia’s Reconciliation journey. One is the successful 1967 referendum, when more than 90 per cent of Australians voted to give the Australian Government power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and recognise them in the Census. The other significant milestone is the Australian High Court’s Mabo decision, when Eddie Koiki Mabo’s challenge to ‘terra nullius’ (land belonging to no one) led to the legal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Australia. This landmark decision paved the way for Native Title.

Yet despite these historic bookends to NRW’s dates, it actually began as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation in 1993 (which was the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples). Australia’s major faith communities supported its inception.

Three years later, in 1996, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation launched Australia’s first National Reconciliation Week.

In 2000, about 300,000 people walked across Sydney Harbour Bridge – and other bridges in cities and towns – to show their support for reconciliation. Then, in 2001, Reconciliation Australia was established to continue to provide national leadership.

With hundreds of NRW events held each year, it is celebrated in workplaces, schools and early learning services, community organisations and groups, and by individuals Australia-wide.

Each year, Eternity collates NRW events and resources organised by Christians and churches. If we have missed your event, please feel free to send us a quick message via our Facebook page, so we can update this article.

A-Z of National Reconciliation Week 2021 events for Christians

Aboriginal Catholic Ministry of Victoria has put together a full liturgy for Catholics for National Reconciliation Week. It includes song, prayers, scripture and a reflective exercise – all designed to bring “context and meaning to the liturgy”. It also provides links to resources for previous NRWs.

Anglican Board of Mission has collated their existing resources from previous years, organising them in the categories ‘Listen’, ‘Pray’ and ‘Reflect’ – while also encouarging people to ‘Act’ by taking part in a NRW event. ABM’s resources include eight interviews with leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander figures from the Anglican Church of Australia and five prayers written by Aborignal and Torres Strait Islander Christians.

There is also an eight-part study designed to help Christians reflect on the Uluru Statement from the Heart.  The studies were written by ABM Reconciliation Coordinator, Celia Kemp, with art by the Reverend Glenn Loughrey. He also wrote daily reflections and information sheets for National Reconciliation Week.

Anglican Church of Southern Queensland tonight will host Yarning with Working Wise Warriors at St John’s Cathedral in Brisbane – “a conversation on how the Church, and its Commissions and agencies, can support and empower First Nations women”.

The event’s line-up features four impressive First Nations’ women: author, historian, academic and advocate Dr Jackie Huggins AM; lawyer, grandmother, activist, domestic violence survivor and Univerity of Queensland adjunct Professor Sandra Creamer; author, cultural custodian and leader in social, cultural and community development, Gaja Kerry Charlton; and host Aunty Sandra King – elder, community leader, businesswoman and former trailblazing fashion model.

This event is limited in size and bookings have closed, but Eternity has included it to show the breadth of ACSQ’s NRW work (NOTE: We will update this section with a link to the recorded conversation, if one becomes available).

Another NRW event hosted by ACSQ features Dale Chapman – a “bush foods specialist” and a renowed First Nations Chef. On 3 June for NRW and University College of Southern Queensland this year, Chapman will share her love of Indigenous cuisine and where the herbs and spices she uses in her cooking can be purchased. This event is limited to just 30 attendees. Booking is essential.

ACSQ has also published an informative article in which Anglicare Cultural Support Officer and Pitta Pitta man Noel Doyle takes on the difficult subject of how non-Indigenous foster carers can help make reconciliation a reality for First Nations children, who are disproportionately represented in out-of-home care.

And, watch a reconciliation message here from Archbishop Phillip Aspinall.

In addition, the diocese is running a NRW training workshop for Anglicare staff called Untold Histories. It will provide insight into First Nations People’s history, intertwining the impacts of past policies and legislation with the experiences of the workshop’s facilitator. Participants will learn how this history has directly affected the lives of First Nations peoples.

Australians Together is an organisation that, throughout the entire year, produces the kind of resources which other groups create specifically for NRW. In their own words: “By listening to the voices of Indigenous Australians, we help non-Indigenous people learn the true story of our shared history, understand how it’s still having an impact today and imagine new ways to live together more respectfully.”

In particular, Australians together have resources designed for churches. These include stories, articles and tools which allow church groups to “listen and learn at your own pace”.

And, of course, Australians Together also has a helpful page explaining what NRW is all about.

Common Grace – the Christian social justice movement – will bring Christians together for a special “Season of Healing Country” that will extend from National Reconciliation Week (27 May-3 June) until NAIDOC Week (4 July-11 July).

Common Grace has put together a toolkit of resources for churches for National Reconciliation Week, to be used on Sunday, 30 May. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders created the toolkit, that includes materials for worship, prayer, Bible readings, Acknowledgement of Country, and sermon resources. It is also adaptable for school chapel services during the week.

Other events throughout the Season of Healing Country will include the online launch of a video about Treaty, followed by a Live Q&A with Brooke Prentis tonight (27 May) on Facebook at 7:30pm.

And, on 8 June, Aunty Reverend Dr Denise Champion will launch her new book Anaditj: The Way Things Are with an interactive Q&A with Prentis. This is set to be an exciting conversation by two amazing women theologians and, through listening, aims to bring ‘Truth Telling’ and ‘Healing Country’.

Common Grace will launch a petition and their annual appeal during this time. They are also working on Children’s Resources to help kids engage with NRW and NAIDOC Week in an age-appropriate way.

Melbourne Indigenous Church Fellowship will host a ‘Dinner and Conversation’ Reconciliation Special Event on 30 May at 6:30pm.

“Come and bring your family to hear from Local Aboriginal People! Share a meal together and learn about their stories and experiences. The theme – ACTION needs to begin with LISTENING. Make that your first ACTION this year,” the event’s flyer reads.

Seventh-day Adventist Church – Pastor Darren Garlett has written this NRW piece for Adventist Record – the official news and lifestyle magazine for the South Pacific Division. Garlett is the director for the church’s Australian Union Conference.

In it, Garlett writes “in the Australian Union Conference (AUC) office, we will be celebrating Reconciliation Week in our morning worship topics. This will include a prayer focus on our Indigenous church leaders … We will host a cultural awareness presentation and several other fun interactive activities for staff.”

“However, the process of reconciliation is much longer than a week. That’s why the AUC has embarked on developing a Reconciliation Action Plan, commonly known as a RAP, which is a framework to measure an organisation’s actions so that we can intentionally take steps that work towards reconciliation. There are conferences and church entities who are also developing their own RAPs. Reconciliation is about understanding each other and working together for a better future. We as Christ’s followers should be at the forefront of bringing people together.”

Tearfund Australia has an existing collection of resources designed to inspire groups and individuals to seek to build connection and relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – and to walk together in seeking justice. This includes a Reconciliation Action Kit.

This year, the organisation is asking Christians to pray specifically for First Peoples organisations and Tearfund partners who are working for a just and compassionate Australia. The prayer list includes:

  • Strong Women Talking –a Christain First Nations organisation focussed on breaking the cycle of family and domestic violence within First Nations communities.
  • Moorditj Keila’s Driver Training Program – which provides opportunities for young Aboriginal people from the ages of 16-30 to get their driver’s license.
  • Nungalinya College – which is delivering a Certificate II course in Community Services, focussing on family wellbeing, trauma informed care and preventing domestic violence. The first cohort of 20 students from the remote NT communities of Wadeye, Maningrida and Ngukurr have recently commenced their studies.
  • Why Warriors Organisation’s Hope for Health Project – based on Elcho Island in Arnhem Land, this program empowers Yolngu people to overcome chronic disease through a direct experience of good food and by providing guidance for healthy lifestyle changes.
  • Sisters Empowered – seeds grant partners which aims to encourage, equip and empower Indigenous women to break the cycle of transgenerational trauma through an online program of art therapy and narrative therapy.

Uniting Church in Australia has released a 2021 Worship Resource for UCA churches, prepared by Tarlee Leondaris, Covenanting and International Missions Officer in the Synod of South Australia.

The resource has intergenerational ideas for worship and includes an adapted sermon by Tarlee from Reverend Dr John Squires and Reverend Elizabeth Raine.

“We suggest you adapt the prayers and music for your particular community’s life,” explains the website. “If you are able, invite a First Nations person to conduct a Welcome to Country. We’d encourage you to do this rather than use the Acknowledgement in the resource. Take time to get to know them and invite them to take part in your worship service as a sign and expression of your Walking Together in covenantal relationship.”

Also featured on UCA’s website is a video message by Pastor Mark Kickett that was shared at the President’s Conference in Adelaide in April. In addition, there are a range of resources for UCA members to take action.

University of Divinity will this year host two online events that are relevant to NRW.

Black Lives Matter and its implications for our Australian context will be held online, on Sunday 30 May, beginning at 3pm AEST.  The event will mark the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, and continue the conversation about Aboriginal incarceration rates and deaths in custody with panellist Aboriginal elder, Anglican Priest and NSW Correctional Services Chaplain Reverend Aunty Dianne Langham.

Included in the event will be a discussion about Treaty, led by Reverend Dr Garry Deverell with panellists Reverend Aunty Dianne Langham, Reverend Dr Garry Deverell, Emma Jackson, Reverend Liam Miller, Reverend Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi and Reverend Dr Katalina Tahaafe-Williams.

The second event is the 2021 Swinburne Annual Reconciliation Lecture, also held online, on Monday 7 June beginning at 5pm AEST. Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson will give this year’s lecture on the subject of Race, Reconciliation, and Indigenous Sovereignty.

“Reconciliation action plans abound in the public and private sectors, an outcome of the reconciliation movement. Reconciliation is perceived as a moral compass to deliver outcomes for Aboriginal people … In this lecture I consider how racial logics enable reconciliation to become an Aboriginal possession, one that operates to obscure the existence of our sovereignties for the benefit of nation,” the website reads.