The situation faced by the Diocese of NT of the Anglican Church of Australia is one that the Church itself needs to confront – how to do justice for those who have been treated unjustly by the Church and society?
The former residents of St Mary’s Children’s Home seek justice for their removal from their families and the disconnection from their place of identity and belonging. They do not publicly question why this occurred or who wants to blame who for it. They lived it. St Mary’s became their home, and it could be argued, the Church became their mother. For them, the sale of the property is the loss of place and identity all over again.
While offers of money and memorials are welcomed, what they seek is to retain the place that was and has become sacred to them – it is the land they belong to. Access to the buildings is just one element of this question. The other is the unmediated access to the places of sitting down and yarning that are outside the buildings but inside the fence line.
While discussions have occurred, they believe their voice, as they experience it, has not been heard. The power remains with those who were in charge during their time there. They do not want to bring down the church, just get what they believe is rightfully theirs – access to the land they grew up on when they had nowhere else they could be.
How do we do this justice? The Statement From the Heart provides us with the template – Voice, Treaty, Truth, and Makarrata – the slow process of yarning and recognizing, coming together as one, the hearing story about what it was like, and then moving forward together. I have outlined this here:
This process cannot be dictated by financial needs or a sense of urgency, it requires time, openness, and a willingness to hear how our actions have impacted others. In this case, it is not just those who were residents but their families, children, and communities who carry the ongoing trauma.
As an Aboriginal leader (Chair of NATSIAC), I call upon the Anglican Church in Australia to speak to us and become proactive in preparing to do justice for our people in situations requiring justice and healing. It won’t be simple, easy, or painless but if we take the restorative justice process of The Statement From the Heart seriously, we can begin to right the wrongs of our past.
In the case of St Mary’s, I stand with the residents in asking all involved to hear their voices and to respond in the image of Christ – with love and compassion – to their petitions.