COP26 Diary: 'I hate being treated like a dumb blackfellow!'

Aboriginal leader and Christian minister Ray Minniecon is in Glasgow, Scotland, for the UN Climate Summit COP26, and he’s keeping a diary …

Diary entry #7: Thursday 4 – Friday 5 November 2021

Once again I have plucked up the courage to go back to the conference again. Over the past two days, I have deliberately avoided the Australian pavilion because it is still a very sore and raw point with me. I am really struggling with the fact that our Australian government’s pavilion is supported by the mining and coal industry. How can the very industries that are the cause of climate change’s destructive forces in our country, and to our Pacific neighbours, also be the ones that convince us that the Morrison government’s plan for climate change is a good plan?

COP26 Diary by Ray Minniecon

I cannot bring myself to swallow the lie that this industry can solve our climate crisis! Are their plans the best and only vision and plan for my people and country? That they have the only workable solutions for the climate crisis in my country? I feel betrayed and deceived by our government. I am finding it real challenging and very difficult to buy into that vision for my people, for my country and for our future.

I had to remind myself of the sermon I heard on Sunday on two visions. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy,  your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Jesus is challenging us all to consider the most important things that attract our attention, our actions and our visions. Do we see cultural heritage as important? Or do we see the destruction of our cultural sites as important? Are we seeing what we are really doing to God’s creation? Or are our “eyes so unhealthy’ that we are “full of darkness”?

One of the challenges to the consequences of extractive capitalism is that we can be deceived by the ‘promise’ of short-term gains and benefits from mining. And not see their destructive consequences. My feelings of betrayal and deception are reinforced by the political fact that we don’t have any veto powers over these ‘deals’ or this vision for my country. We read report after report of the “deals” that are done without Prior and Informed Consent. I do emphasise the words INFORMED CONSENT, which is a specific right that is recognised in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). It was designed to allow us to decide to either give or withhold INFORMED CONSENT on a mining project that may or may not affect our land, our culture, our future or our community.

Our “spiritual eyes need to be healthy” to work through so many challenging issues when it comes to these negotiations that ‘promise’ to fulfil our present and future dreams, visions and aspirations. What does that old proverb say? “Without a vision, the people perish.” Perhaps a vision designed by unhealthy eyes will produce a body and a vision that is full of darkness.

Anyway, over the past two days the “Conference of Parties” (COP26) has been a hive of activity. I visited a few other pavilions and I have had the opportunity to speak at a number of media interviews including two early morning interviews with ABC RN’s podcast series, and Koori Radio in Redfern with Lola Forrester, where we discussed our other national crisis, Covid19. It wasn’t good news either.

I do find solace and consolation when I sit and yarn with the TEAR mob. They have a good positive vibe. My interview with Eurovision also produced a good outcome. The producer is a former Australian from FNQ. He offered me tickets to a Wallaby’s match being played on Sunday in Edinburg. I will only take up the offer if it doesn’t interfere with my church attendance.

I also spoke at a Climate Action Network Australia event which was live-streamed. They are the overarching organisation that got IPO three registered tickets to COP26. I am very grateful to them. As you can imagine, registration to these COP events require tight security arrangements.

I was also invited to speak at the Pacific Forum on Being a Good Neighbour.

Early on Friday night I saw a disturbing documentary by Al Jazeera TV on Kiribati. It was deeply emotional and disturbing about the plight of these disappearing island homes. After seeing this doco, I began to focus on what to say to my Pacific family and relatives. When I spoke to our Pacific neighbours, I told them I didn’t come to apologise on behalf of my people or the recalcitrant Australian Government. Most apologies to Indigenous Peoples are meaningless and insulting. I did say that my people identify, empathise with and acknowledge their huge pain, suffering and loss. Australia’s CO2 emissions and climate change denial are doing so much damage in these Pacific Island regions also, with rising sea levels.

I did say that we Indigenous people need to demand a seat at the table of the G10, G7, G20, because it is these very countries who have invaded our countries, destroyed our lands, culture, people and heritage. They ripped all the wealth and resources from our lands for the benefit of their citizens and now are the very countries who sit at these powerful global tables and pontificate and rule about how they are going to heal our country and people and deliver us from the evils of climate change. I hate being treated like a dumb blackfellow!

I also condemned the church for their role in carrying out the demands of their governments in the dispossession agenda. In Matthew 23 Jesus condemns them all as hypocrites! I did meet up with a dear old mate, the Aboriginal Archbishop of Canada. The Venerable Rev. Mark Macdonald. It was so good to be refreshed by his presence and his voice!

On Friday evening I was invited by the Glasgow City Council to a Civic Reception to all Indigenous and First Nations Peoples. It was good to feel connected again to our global Indigenous peoples.

Tomorrow is the global march day. But before I go, I will try and attend the Indigenous People’s Caucus for a briefing.

I must confess after suffering a year of lockdowns, it takes a lot of effort and pain to get back to some level of fitness! Panadol is pain relief!

My Prayer

Ancient of Days. I am reminded of the prayer we place in our family home A prayer that said, “Christ is the head of the home, the unseen guest of every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” Ancient of Days, empower us to see this prayer differently. Give us renewed faith to believe with the Apostle Paul, when he reminded us all that; “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

Ancient of Days; Help us see Your Son sitting with us throughout all the conversations we are having about the wisdom and knowledge we need to undo all the damage that we have done to Your creation. Ancient of Days, You are not the unseen guest. You are seen visibly through the lives of the poor, the prisoner, the refugee, the widow, the single mother, the sick and needy, the hungry and thirsty, the tired and weary soldier. And the peoples who countries are being destroyed by rapid climate changes which cause fires, flooding, rising sea levels that destroy our island homes because of our greed.

Ancient of Days, You are always visible in the beauty of all your creation. Ancient of Days, You are not the silent listener either. You are the angry and frightened voice of our youth who want to protect, preserve and restore Your creation for their children’s children. You are the wise old elders who know the secrets of life’s deep sacred lessons that protect and preserve your knowledge of creation.

Ancient of Days, empower us see you as the Ancient of Day in all that we do for Your creation and for our neighbours. Open our hearts to feel your divine presence among every conversation we have to restore your creation. Ancient of Days. Open our ears to hear your voice and apply our hands to produce the healing of all your creation.

I ask these mercies in the name of Your Son Jesus, our Ancestor in faith.


Ray Minniecon is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of south-east Queensland. He is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people, with deep and abiding connections to the people of Ambrym Island. He leads Scarred Tree, an Aboriginal, Torres Strait and Australian South Sea Islander ministry based in St John’s Glebe, Sydney.