By Lisa Zengarini
The Archdiocese of Brisbane has launched an innovative Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), aimed at building strong relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to correct “past injustices” inflicted on them by European colonizers. The plan, which is supported by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council of Queensland and is endorsed by the non-profit organization Reconciliation Australia, commits all local Church institutions “to healing the wounds of the past and taking action in a spirit of mercy, love, justice, truth telling and peace”. It is inspired by the words of Pope John Paul II who said, in his address to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in Alice Springs in 1986: “(W)e long for the day when we are fully the Church that Jesus wants us to be, a Church where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make their contribution to her life, and that contribution is joyfully received by others”, the document quotes.
The RAP, is the result of a four year consultation by a Reconciliation Working Group, which included six first nations members. It was officially launched on November 17 and celebrated with a Mass presided over by Archbishop Mark Coleridge. In his homily the prelate remarked how the injustices against First Nations in Australia, which he called the “original sin” of the Country , “remain a running sore at the heart of the Nation”, stressing the importance of listening to Indigenous peoples and to learn from them so that there can be “a future for Australia as a united people”.
The plan, which is divided into four categories of ‘Relationships’, ‘Respect’, ‘Opportunities’ and ‘Governance’, and underpinned by 20 action items all linked to timelines and deliverables, RAP sets specific targets for creating more Indigenous jobs in the Archdiocese, and for adopting Indigenous cultural perspectives in the daily activities of parishes, Church agencies and schools.
Amongst other things it commits the Brisbane archdiocese to carry out cultural awareness training for employees and parishes within the next year. Within two years, all parishes and agencies will be encouraged to include the traditional aboriginal “Welcome to Country” or “Acknowledgement of Country” rituals where appropriate at public events and major liturgies. There will also be a review of all brochures, pamphlets and posters promoting archdiocesan agency services to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture where possible.
In a foreword included in the RAP document Archbishop Coleridge wrote of a sense of urgency about implementing its strategies, which would be a crucial part of the local Church’s journey in South-East Queenslan: “The RAP will provide important opportunities to renew and deepen relations between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples and those of other heritages”, he said. “Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the implementation of this plan will lead communities on a new path of trust and respect”. He then expressed his hope and prayer is that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be encouraged, empowered and supported in every way, so that the entire People of God will be enriched by the gifts which they alone can bring”.