Hearing Indigenous voices
by Neville Otto
At the 2015 General Convention of Synod, the LCA launched 50.500 as a mechanism to recognise the church’s 50th birthday in 2016 and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, and to undertake future seed projects.
One seed project identified by Bishop John Henderson was ‘Hearing the Indigenous Voice’.
A small project team was formed to consider how best the LCA could hear voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our church. The 50.500 committee knew of businesses, schools, community groups and health care providers, which had adopted a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). RAPs provide a good framework for practical plans built on relationships, respect and opportunities.
From 2016 to 2018 we have been conducting research and holding consultations with Aboriginal and church leaders to understand the best way forward. The committee decided to explore the possibility of developing a RAP between 2017 and 2020. The consultations were pivotal in informing our approach. A draft RAP Project Plan was then prepared, which outlined objectives, including:
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are an integral part of the development of the RAP
• The LCA hears and listens to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through quality community engagement
A Reconciliation Action Plan will provide a framework for the LCA to realise its vision for hearing, recognising and supporting Aboriginal people. It will help us deliver broader outcomes, including:
• Providing the opportunity for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to give leadership and contribute to decisions concerning mission and ministry
• Ensuring appropriate representation in churchwide and local decision-making bodies
• Support non-Aboriginal people in the LCA to gain insight into what is important to Aboriginal people.
In late 2017, the RAP project team began consulting Lutheran Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in South Australia’s West Coast (including Ceduna, pictured), Central Australia and Far North Queensland. We trust we are beginning to form relationships with people as we begin to hear their stories, needs, hopes and goals.
With Synod’s support we will take the next steps, including establishing a working group, most or all of whom will be Aboriginal people. To our knowledge this will be the first national church RAP.
We believe this work will provide a genuine tool to enable hearing the voices of Aboriginal people, engage in sensitive and appropriate dialogue, and encourage and facilitate Aboriginal people to lead, guide and serve in the LCA and the wider Australian community.
Pastor Neville Otto is 50.500 Committee Chair and the LCA’s Secretary of the Church.