This blog is written by Susan Leonard a local CHC student. Susan and other Australian students participated in the Australian Indigenous Worldviews (CS254) class, along with ASC students in semester two, 2018. Editor’s note: This post has been edited.
Traditional Welcome to Country ceremony
In August this year, my Australian Indigenous Worldviews class took a trip away to Minjerribah (Aboriginal name for North Stradbroke Island). The knowledge and the experience profoundly changed my perspective and my attitude towards Australian Indigenous people and their way of life.
CHC students (left to right): Sophie, Georgia , Susan (me), Billie & Alison after getting our faces painted
Georgia having her face painted by an Aboriginal elder
I have asked myself, at which point did the empathy come. Upon reflection, there was a profound moment when we worshiped together on the shores of Brown Lake. In Matthew 18:20 (The Passion Translation) tells us that “… wherever two or three come together in honor of my name, I am right there with them”. I could not stop the tears from coming when I heard Lea (our Indigenous lecturer) share how her ancestors had sat in that same place. There, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, it all became real for me.
Local elder Matty with ASC Indigenous lecturer Lea
However, it was not just that moment that changed my understanding. It was a culmination of lessons and readings, throwing boomerangs and spears, learning about bush tucker (food), having my face decorated, participating in ceremonial dances, creating sand art on the beach, being ‘in country’, hearing the hearts of the amazing brothers and sisters we met, and the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
CHC student Ben learning to throw a spear
Despite the horrors Aboriginal people and their ancestors have endured and with racism still prevalent in Australian society, the elders were still open in sharing from their heart about their culture. The Aboriginal elders clearly demonstrated reconciliation and the healing we ALL so desperately need. This experience gave me, not only understanding, but a sense of belonging.
Being part of community
My joy in all of this comes from the knowledge that out of great pain and suffering God, our Jehovah-Rapha, will bring great healing –
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour. Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)
Sand art design with the kangaroo totem
My prayer is that our Heavenly Father will show us how to honour our Aboriginal brothers and sisters so that together we can rejoice in the healing and the coming together of the Body of Christ.
Interested in finding out more
about the Australian Indigenous Class, click here
Alternatively, watch the video below of Sarah (Gordon College) and Alex (Wheaton College), ASC students from Spring 2018 share about their experience about the Australian Indigenous Worldview class (CS254).