Hopes for 2023: Unboxing hope

Larissa, a Gubbi Gubbi, Gureng Gureng, Ambryn and a Torres Strait Islander woman, is an emerging leader at Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries in Sydney. Across two decades, she has worked in community development, Indigenous health and ministry in remote, rural and urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Here Larissa shares her hopes for 2023.

Minniecon and Scarred Tree

Ray, Sharon and Larissa Minniecon in front of the ‘Scarred Tree’ from which their ministry derives its name.

To talk about hope, I need to tell you where I come from. I speak the dreams for 2023 not as an individual but as one of the voices of my community. As my niece, Talicia, states, “I am Mob-made”. So I talk from that perspective.

My people are the Gubbi Gubbi, Gureng Gureng, Ambryn and Torres Strait Islanders, Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries, and my family. In preparing to write this, I’ve been discussing hope with my parents and leaders of Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries, Ray and Sharon, drawing on their wisdom.

Our vision of hope always arrives boxed, but I don’t mean gift-wrapped. Mob have lost so much through grief, loss and trauma, we really do have to compartmentalise everything. We have to keep hope in a box, protecting it, nurturing it.

Many of us have a certain picture of what a great 2023 looks like. It’s a ‘Yes’ vote for the Voice to Parliament. It’s the road to Treaty gaining real traction. It’s the start of committed and open Truth-telling. Massive changes in the life of this country.

You might be wondering how to approach these changes. As a starting point, we offer a picture of two kingdoms: the Kingdom of God and the British Kingdom in which Australia sits. Two very different kingdoms but when it comes to First Nations people, one thing is the same in both: our sovereignty. God has blessed us through the ages with land, knowledge, language, and culture. But we also continue to be the owners of that land, that was never ceded, in the remains of this corner of the British empire.

My invitation is to come walk with us, get to know us and let us get to know you.

That is the basis for many First Nations people to understand the way forward. Because of that, many of us arrive in 2023 with the very clear expectation of Voice, Treaty and Truth-telling – and everything powerful and good that will flow from them.

You may be asking where to even begin to play your part. What will be your first step?

My invitation is to come walk with us, get to know us and let us get to know you. Come to learn. This wouldn’t be a short meeting; it’s about a long-term friendship.

It’s then that we can truly start to go forward together. You probably know the Footprints in the Sand poem well, where a person is walking with God on a beach and looks back to see just one set of footprints at different parts of the journey. She assumes that God had abandoned her in those times. However, God tells her that at those times he was carrying her. It’s an inspiring poem.

But if the poem was Indigenous, it’s about you walking with us along a beach. There would not be one or two sets of footprints, there would be many, all walking together, journeying toward the goals of Voice, Treaty and Truth-telling – and far beyond, with God.

We need the energy and commitment of non-Indigenous Australians to make change possible.

There are many ways to walk with us: introduce yourself to a First Nations group, attend an event with a First Nations speaker or invite a First Nations speaker to your church (but respect their knowledge by offering to pay). Seek out First Nations writers and podcasters to study up on the history and the current issues.

This takes effort but that’s what it means to truly take this path with us. Please don’t let us be the only set of footprints on the beach, carrying you. First Nations Australians make up just under 4 per cent of the population, so we need the energy and commitment of non-Indigenous Australians to make change possible.

Standing with us will build trust. And that trust is the basis for hope and a radically different future.

You might have concerns and worries about what we’re talking about. So perhaps you carry your hope in a box too. But this is about unboxing hope so it becomes a potent and life-giving reality for all of us.

We can’t be sure of success. It’s a risky type of hope. What will be your next step?

Ways to connect:

·       Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries

·       Common Grace

·       NAIITS: Indigenous Learning Community Down Under

·       We Are The Mainstream

·       Glebe NAIDOC