More Boat People…

I heard that Uganda took in 6 million refugees recently…we have 14 or 15 wanting to come in on a boat and it makes national news…we need to get over ourselves ! Here are some stats –

They [boat people] make up less than four per cent of people who come to Australia seeking asylum, yet never fail to generate an astonishing political and media storm.

So here are some facts: more than 96 per cent of asylum seekers arriving in Australia step off planes, not boats. Furthermore, the vast majority of boat arrivals are typically found to be genuine refugees – those fleeing for their lives and safety, not simply seeking better lives in wealthier nations. Far from being “illegal immigrants” they are exercising the right to seek asylum under international law.

Yet right now our Government is actually considering paying Indonesia, a country which has not signed the UN Convention on Refugees, to swoop in on people desperately seeking refuge in Australia before we’ve even had a chance to hear their claims.

In Indonesia, this group of asylum seekers, including a pregnant woman and several children, will be placed in immigration detention until they are processed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Despite financial assistance from the Australian Government and the International Organisation for Migration, Indonesian detention centres are over-crowded and under-resourced.

Asylum seekers in Indonesia face arbitrary and indefinite detention until the UNHCR processes their claims. Amnesty International is concerned that the UNHCR has limited capacity in Indonesia and asylum seekers may be forced to spend extended periods in detention while waiting to apply for refugee status.

Refugees in Indonesia do not have the right to work, send their children to school and have no recourse to a more permanent status. Their only hope of a durable solution is to be selected for resettlement to a third country through the UNHCR, a process that can take more than six years.
[Source]

Advertisements

Good Article By Jarrod McKenna

God’s Politics Jesus and Justice Always Kiss: A Plea to Youth Pastors Making Out with Empire

by Jarrod McKenna 02-11-2009

That U.S. megaphone of amazing grace, Shane Claiborne, was recently moved to tears after witnessing a youth gathering in Australia. As he wrote: Can you imagine if our North American Christian conferences had a witness on the streets like that [inspiring peaceful public direct action drawing attention to militarism and world poverty]? In the middle of it all, I had one person come up to me and say – “if this is what Christianity is, then sign me up.” In this notoriously non-Christian country, I was proud to be part of a witness that showed folks a Christianity worth believing in, good news they could see and touch and feel. I wonder if it’s because of our context of witness in a (as brother Shane put it), “notoriously non-Christian country,” that Australian Christians might be better positioned to see the necessity of ‘Jesus and justice kissing.’ This necessity is not simply for the ends of ‘effective evangelism.’ The necessity lies in biblical imperative that evangelism must never be divorced from discipleship. That we share Jesus by inviting others to join a community learning the practicalities of walking in God’s new world. Or as the early Anabaptists put it, “walking in the resurrection.” In this “non-Christian [or post Christendom] country” many of us have become very aware that the means of outreach directly correspond to how young people understand the content of our faith. Many find themselves asking if ‘Jesus and justice’ aren’t kissing in our ministry, is it the Jesus of the gospels we are preaching? If Jesus and justice aren’t kissing in our ministry, are we (and a generation of young people) missing out on the fullness of the good news of the kingdom breaking in through Jesus? [Read the full article and comments here]

Books And Movies on Indigenous Aussie Issues

I had a meeting yesterday with some friends about a potential connection between a remote community in the North West and their church in Perth. One of the questions asked was ‘Why?”

I think it needs to be asked.

One of my passions is this very idea of communities connecting with other communities for a reciprocal benefit. A kind of partnership if you like. Most of white Australia’s history with the ‘First Australians’ has been pretty one sided, even recent history – think ‘N.T. intervention’! My passion would be to build relationship between communities for mutual benefit.

What benefit is there for me in having a relationship with some remote community in the Kimberley or a Noongar community right here in Perth? More than there is for them I would suggest! I actually think white man has gone into Aboriginal communities throughout our history with our own agenda of sorts. Mostly a one sided agenda – be it to teach, tell, take or … take over! Very few times do I hear stories of white man going into relationship with an indigenous Aussie or community to listen, learn, and love. I think one of the key reasons I have been rather apathetic in my own relationships and interactions with our first Australians has been largely due to fear of offense (due to my ignorance) rather than any form of racism, although I am not claiming innocence here! Why do people walk across to the other side of the road if they see a dark aboriginal man walking towards them? Racism? Maybe, but my guess is that these days there are many who would not count themselves as racist, they wept when the apology was spoken, they were appalled when the army stormed the N.T. remote communities without due consultation. But these same people when confronted with an aboriginal just don’t quite know what to do. They don’t want to offend culture, they don’t want to embarrass themselves, they are just stuck in ignorance so they walk away.

I know a few aboriginal people, in fact I am related to one. And I would suggest on the whole these great people might want to offer white Australians a gift. A gift of education and relationship. If us white fellas took time and effort to know a bit more about culture, about country about language, history, story and song – if we just knew a bit more we would be less ignorant and therefor less fearful and more willing to engage.

My passion would be to link willing aboriginal people and communities with willing non-indigenous Aussies and communities and humbly ask the indigenous people, “Are you willing to teach us about your people, your culture, your country, your history”, and where appropriate, “your dreaming, your songs?”  I used the word “Mission” in my meeting yesterday and one of the people froze up and became a little agitated. “Let me explain” I said. I suggested that traditionally “mission” has been about proselytism, primarily about “evangelizing the heathen”. I suggested my opinion was that mission was as much about us as it was “them” (whoever the “them” may be). That our mission as believers was primarily about seeing where God was already at work among people and all of creation, then once identified, going and joining Him in His work. This to me is about Kingdom. Seeing opportunities for peace, reconciliation, restoration and relationship – the things of the Kingdom – and working with the Spirit in these things.

I asked my cousin about some of these things and she said for a start I should watch some movies and read some books. Here is a list of some of her recommendations, added to them are some others I have read or had recommended ;

Movies and Documentaries-

10 Canoes

The First Australians SBS Series.

Yolngu Boy

Coolbaroo Club

Ranyini

Bran Nue Day

Why Me? Stories of The Stolen Genneration

Liyarn Ngarn

Books

Two Men Dreaming

An Aboriginal Mother Tells of The Old and The New – Labumore

The Tall Man – Chloe Hooper

Voices of Aboriginal Australia – Moores

The World of The First Australians – Berndt

The lamb enters the dreaming: Nathaniel Pepper and the ruptured world – Kenny

Blood, spirit and bones: Aboriginal Christianity in an East-Kimberley town

I guess aprt from reading books and watching movies, what has helped more than anything else has been sitting with people who are Australian Aboriginal and asking questions and listening… and listening…

The Tall Man

The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper was my best read of the summer holidays, a book I could not put down. If you love court room type investigative dramas you will love this true story.

0241015375On the 19th November 2004, Cameron Doomadgee swore at a police officer. The 36-year-old aboriginal resident of Palm Island off the coast of Queensland near Townsville was arrested by Christopher Hurley and 40 minutes later was found dead in a cell of the local police station.

In January 2007 Hurley was charged with manslaughter, the first Australian police officer to be charged over a death in custody. He was acquitted in June 2007.

With such a controversial subject, it is a pleasant surprise to discover that Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man Penguin, 2008 handles the matter with such restrained sensitivity and intelligence. (source)

I wept as I read the last chapter of this brilliant book. I know a country copper, a tall , big guy, who I know ‘roughs up’ people a bit, could he do something like this when his temper is pushed to the limit? Would you? Would I? But more than all these questions about our temper and what it can produce, I was challenged by white Australia’s attitude to our indigenous people, the first Australians. Sadly the verdict was handed down just 24 hours before Howard marched the army into the Northern Territory as part of that government’s intervention and ‘answer’ to The Little Children are Sacred report, so most of the drama of it all was lost, but I do remember the news about the riots in 2004 and subsequent reports.

Can I again recommend, for all those who think I may be a bit biased towards Australian Aboriginals, the SBS series The First Australians. You can watch online at http://www.sbs.com.au/firstaustralians/

Oh and – Read The Tall Man

Why I Boycotted The Olympics This Year

I decided to not watch any of the Olympics this year due to my outrage that China was allowed to host them when they have so much unfinished business with the international community – meaning, they need to answer for their actions on so many fronts and in so many instances. I guess the fact that they are now a powerful economic force makes all their wrongs right…it has worked for most of our western countries right? I guess some might ask, and have, why allow just about any country to host the games, we all have a log in our eye in some ways regarding human rights. A good point. But I feel China are very brazen with their attitude, yet we in the west keep embracing them like a long lost brother. Should we not call them to account? I guess in Australia we are allowed to protest the fact that refugee children were held in detention, and something happened, international media focused on the US treatment of prisoners of war and something happened…we hope!  The fact that we make money and are a significant player in the western consumer capitalist world seems to cover over a multitude of sins…like the one in the clip below. I found the clip here.

Rev. John Green and the People of Coranderrk Station

There are stories you find that you wonder how they have ever been kept a secret. The story of Scottish preacher man John Green, described as a

“Devout Christian man, yet a gentle and understanding man. He was a freak, he had almost no prejudices, whether, a black or white or whatever. There were few people around like Green…

He transcended the popular racist mindset, he had full faith in the aboriginal people, their community, their capabilities and what they were able to achieve.”

I discovered John Green in episode three (Freedom For Our Lifetime) of “The First Australians” on SBS online. He is an amazing and inspirational example of an incarnational missionary. He gave his life for the people he loved, the Wurundjeri Aboriginal nation near Melbourne Vic around 1860 and beyond.

Green stood with Simon Wonga and Barrack, leaders of the people whilst they asked for just a portion of their own land back. They gained victory as they were given what they called Coranderrk Station, named after a tree growing nearby. They claimed the land as their own, they set up their own settlement, independent, very unique at the time. Although the government continued to hold their finances and dictate much of what happened on the station they were given local right to govern. The model Green helped them establish was so successful that others began. But none with the same ‘feel’ as Coranderrk station, others were ruled over by white fellas, and you had to ‘convert’ to Christianity before being allowed on the land, Green allowed the aboriginals the right to choose, it was their land wasn’t it?

After some years of very successful lifestyle the government decided to  set up a brewery at Coranderrk, growing the grain and everything on site with promised return of profits into a new hospitalal.

This was the beginning of the end for the settlement because;

1. They put a white fella boss over Wonga, Barack and Green.

2. They refused to pay any money to the Aboriginals for their work.

“The board is under no obligation to pay any aboriginal. They must be attentive and civil to all persons or they will be sent away.”

The government sold the entire project out from under Wonga, Barack and Green and their community and kept the $1m – a promise broken.

The grain gardens drained the energy of the community and of Green. He was forced to resign and struggled as he was the meat in the sandwich between two races of people. Green found himself living just outside the settlement banned from entering by government officials who saw him as a threat, he allowed the aboriginals too much self governing rights, too much freedom!

One aboriginal man says “Green had lost hope with Government officials, he had no friends there. he was a black man on the inside, all his friends were aboriginal. He lived with them and let them live in and run their own community”

By now, the government ruled the town, Wonga dies, some say of a broken hert. His friend Green at his side despite not being allowed there. Coranderrk was a pain to manage for the government as the locals all had tasted self rule and were quite independent thinkers and doers. So they decide to sell the land and just get rid of the problem. After massive appeal to the government the local aboriginals were given the land and their good friend Green back in their community.

In 1886 the “Protection Board” makes a new law that begun what we now know as “The Stolen Generation”, it is called the Half Cast Act. If you were not a full blood aboriginal you were removed from any settlement, more than halving the populations of the communities and the governments budget for them. Children and grandchildren, aunties and uncles mothers and fathers, families were destroyed and torn apart.

The beginning of the end for Corunderrk. This was genocide. Absorbtion of aboriginals into mainstream white Australia. Although at this time Corunderrk was given over to the Aboriginal people, the people, their heart, was taken from them and Corunderrk collapsed.

We hear nothing of what became of Green in these latter years, we hear much of the leader of the Corunderrk people – Barack, and so we should! It seems fitting that the ledgend of this man Green and his ministry to a wonderful people seems to fade away. That the story finished as a tribute the the last great leader Barack as he drags himself, crippled, the 60 mile journey yet again to Melbourne to plead for his people.

At that time in Victoria it is suggested about 300 Aboriginal people remained. Today there are approx        30 000 and traditional ceremony and teachings have begun again as young aboriginals reconnect with the stories of Wonga and Barack…oh and a white fella named Rev, John Green.

The First Australians – SBS

I read a great book by Tom Kenealley called A Commonwealth of Theives, a great historical read on the settling of Australia, the first fleet and Sydney Cove etc. He gives a fair bit of detail of the issues regarding the relationships between the indigenous culture (The first Australians) and the invaders (or settlers), but his focus is broader than these issues.

I have just watched episode 1 of the SBS doco The First Australians, similar in date and geographical foci to Keneally, but rather more a direct commentary on the indigenous people and the effect the invasion of their land had upon them.

If you are interested in our history as a nation and in particular the history of our interaction with the first Australians, the Aboriginal people of the land we live on, I highly recommend this series, viewable online.