Jim Carty, sm, Aus, sends this Pentecost reflection: Following the death of George Floyd, an African American, while being arrested by four Police officers last Thursday,angry mobs took to the streets in protest. Below, a picture of the arrest graphically shows one of the officers kneeling with force on the neck of a prone and handcuffed man for at least nine minutes - for a while Mr Floyd pleaded with the officer to let him breath until he no longer could. Soon after, he died in the hands of Medics. At a press conference, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the protests stemmed from built-up anger and sadness "ingrained in our black community not just because of five minutes of horror, but 400 years."
The same anger and sadness are also ingrained in the First peoples of Australia because of the massacres, dispossession, racism, violence and the disproportionate levels of incarcerations in prison they have experienced for the past 200 plus years.
We too have our present-day tragic examples of horror. Here are two.
A coroner has found that an Aboriginal man was "cooked to death" after he spent four hours in the back of a security van in searing heat with no air conditioning as it drove across the goldfields of south-west Australia.
The 46-year-old Aboriginal elder suffered third degree burns after collapsing in the heat and falling to the floor of the van while it traveled 250 miles from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in 47C heat.
A decade after a death in custody that sparked riots on Palm Island in north Queensland, the Aboriginal community is still trying to heal, residents say.
Cameron Doomadgee, 36, died in a police cell on November 19, 2004. He was locked up for being drunk and a public nuisance, and at the time of his arrest had no visible injuries.
Hours later he was dead from massive internal injuries including broken ribs and a ruptured spleen, and his liver was so badly damaged it was almost cleaved in two across his spine.
The pathologist who conducted a post-mortem compared Mr Doomadgee's injuries with those of plane crash victims.
(The Policeman, a tall strong white man, responsible for his death was found not guilty of manslaughter. One can speculate how the injuries were caused)
I share this narrative because we here in Australia are celebrating, if that's the word, Reconciliation week 27th May to the 3rd June. It's a yearly event.
National Reconciliation Week started as the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation in 1993 (the International Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples) and was supported by Australia's major faith communities. In 1996, the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation launched Australia's first NRW.
These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.
It may come as a surprise, but that 1967 referendum put a question to the nation (The White nation):
DO YOU APPROVE the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled— 'An Act to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the People of the Aboriginal Race in any State and so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the Population'
Surprisingly it was a resounding success for the yes vote- 92% agreed!
So there! After more than 180 years the colonisers of Australia decidedto count the descendants of those people who had been living here for more than 50,000 years in the national census !
The Mabo decision was a legal case held in 1992. It is short for Mabo and others v Queensland (No 2) (1992). The legal decision was made by the High Court on 3 June 1992. The High Court is the highest court in Australia's judicial system.
The Mabo decision was named after Eddie Mabo, the man who challenged the Australian legal system and fought for recognition of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional owners of their land.
The Mabo case ran for 10 years. On 3 June 1992, the High Court of Australia decided that terra nullius should not have been applied to Australia. This decision recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to the land – rights that existed before the British arrived and can still exist today.
The Mabo decision was a turning point for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' rights, because it acknowledged their unique connection with the land. It also led to the Australian Parliament passing the Native Title Act in 1993.
Aboriginal chain gangs - colonial days
"Reconciliation must live in the hearts, minds and actions of all Australians as we move forward, creating a nation strengthened by respectful relationships between the wider Australian community, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."
The year 2000 reconciliation walk across Sydney Harbour bridge- estimated 250,000 joined the event.
Even as we celebrate the efforts for genuine reconciliation, news arrives of yet another form of desecration, that of Aboriginal sacred and cultural sites just last week. by the mining giant Con Zinc Rio Tinto in its ongoing rapacious drive for minerals
"Pilbara mining blast confirmed to have destroyed 46,000 yo sites of 'staggering' significance"
Nice work by Rio Tinto- 45,000 years blown up in 45 seconds in the Pilbara- has to be a record - it took much longer for ISIS to take out the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan in 2001- they were only 1500 years old.
A sacred site in Western Australia that showed 46,000 years of continual occupation and provided a 4,000-year-old genetic link to present-day traditional owners has been destroyed in the expansion of an iron ore mine.
The cave in Juukan Gorge in the Hammersley Ranges, about 60km from Mt Tom Price, is one of the oldest in the western Pilbara region and the only inland site in Australia to show signs of continual human occupation through the last Ice Age. It was blasted along with another sacred site on Sunday.
"Our people are deeply troubled and saddened by the destruction of these rock shelters and are grieving the loss of connection to our ancestors as well as our land," said John Ashburton, chair of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama Land Committee.
Puutu Kunti Kurrama (PKK) traditional owners said the mining giant had detonated charges in an area of the Juukan Gorge, about 60 kilometres north-west of Tom Price, and feared two ancient, deep time rock shelters would be "decimated" in the blasts.
"It's terrible,"Mr Hayes said the community felt sorrow and sadness over the lost heritage.
Marcia Langton. Marcia Lynne Langton AM (born 31 October 1951, Brisbane, Australia) holds the Foundation Chair in Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne in the Faculty of Medicine. In 2016 she became Distinguished Professor and in 2017, Associate Provost.
Marcia Langton is a descendant of the Yiman nation of central Queensland. She is the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne and is widely published on topics in Aboriginal studies, including land tenure, art and agreement-making
Aunty Marcia writes:"Myths are powerful. They influence the way we think about things of which we might not have direct experience. The most difficult relationship is not between black and white people but between white Australians and the symbols created by their predecessors.
Most Australians do not know how to relate to Aboriginal people.
They relate to stories told by former colonists.
Individual Australians need to bust these powerful and often destructive myths by setting the record straight about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fellow citizens… Whether it's a conversation with your colleagues or chatting at a dinner party, check out the facts to help you set the record straight."
The Aboriginal Flag
A THANKSGIVING 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 vast deserts and dense forest,
and 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 your whole creation.
Lead us on, Great Sprit,
as we gather from the four 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.
Rev'd Lenore Parker, NATSIAC Life Member, A Prayer Book for Australia p.218
Australian Aboriginal Flag