Issue No 4 Wednesday 22 July 1998
The Official Newspaper of the
Lambeth Conference

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Australian delegate asserts rights of Aborigines
by Roland Ashby

Australian MP Pauline Hanson recently made world headlines when she said the Australian Government spends too much money on Aboriginal Australians' welfare. But Aboriginal Australian Lenore Parker, Lambeth Conference delegate and member of the Anglican Consultative Council, insists there is a strong case for special treatment for Aborigines: "Ever since the white man arrived in Australia 200 years ago the Aborigines have been dispossessed and oppressed. We haven't had the right to negotiate or had the same opportunities as white Australians. We've had to fight for justice, and for our values and beliefs."

Lenore Parker: deeply thankful for Australian Church's apology to Aborigines
Ms Parker is equally forthright about Australian Prime Minister John Howard's refusal to apologise formally for the "stolen generations"-- Aborigines who were removed from their families as children with the aim of assimilating them into white society. "I can understand why he refused to apologise--he's afraid it might cost the government money--but he's looking at it with his head, not his heart, and saying sorry is a matter for the heart. "Imagine the pain of those mothers and children. My cousins still cannot return to their hometown for long periods because their memories of being taken away are too painful."

Ms Parker has, nonetheless, been "greatly encouraged" by the recent National Sorry Day when many thousands of Australians across the country signed Sorry Books and attended services.

She is also "deeply thankful" for the Australian Anglican Church's formal apology at its General Synod in February: "That was an amazing time.There was real recognition that injustice had been done." At the Synod Ms Parker called on Anglicans to "listen to the stories of my people" and "get down on our knees and say to God that we are sorry... so that we can look directly into the face of an Aboriginal person and say I love you, please forgive me."

The Synod also voted to amend the constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia to provide six positions in Synod for Aboriginal Australians as of right; and passed a bill formalising the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Angli can Council (NATSIAC). A member of NATSIAC since its inception in 1993, Ms Parker says the Council has been instrumental in changing attitudes to Aboriginal issues and is helping to give her people "more of a sense of belonging to the Church. Last year a Council member became the first female Aboriginal Anglican priest, and another three Aboriginal women will be ordained at the end of this year!"
Ms Parker believes that God first led her to the Anglican Church through the life and witness of an Anglican priest, the Rev Stanley Gaden."He didn't speak down to us, and he was tireless in his pursuit of justice, truth and improved living conditions for the people in my town."
Later, she benefited from the healing ministry of Anglican priest Mark Lavelle, and in more recent times it has been as a member of the ACC that her appreciation of Anglicanism has grown.

"At the ACC's 1996 Panama meeting I started to get a taste of the rich Anglican flavour; and I realised that I am allowed to be me through the Church's diversity--Catholic, Evangelical, Charismatic. I saw the fullness of God's gift to us in this Church."

Ms Parker says her hope for the future is that we will become a Church which reaches out to "our suffering, broken world" and "is a place for all people to be embraced in the love that was so freely given by God."

She is called, she believes, to challenge the Church to listen to the voice of its faithful Aboriginal peoples, "because we have a depth of spiritual awareness which is thousands of years old." This spirituality is attested to in her prayer, "God of Holy Dreaming," which has been included in A Prayer Book for Australia:

God of holy dreaming, Great Creator Spirit,
From the dawn of creation you have given
Your children the good things of mother earth
You spoke and the gum tree grew
In the vast desert and dense forest, in cities at the water's edge
Creation sings your praise
Your presence endures as the rock at the heart of our land
When Jesus hung on the tree you heard the cries of your people
And became one with your wounded ones
The convicts, the hunted and the dispossessed
The Sunrise of your son coloured the earth anew
And bathed it in glorious hope
In Jesus we have been reconciled to you, to each other
And to all creation
Lead us on, Great Holy Spirit, as we gather
From the far corners of the earth
Enable us to walk together in trust
From the hurt and shame of the past
Into the full day which has dawned in Jesus Christ Amen.

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