Tag Archive: justice


Lay your burdens down child

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At the beach this week I found myself writing a bit of a song of lament and solace but can see it having several applications perhaps as prayer of confession of self, powers and politics.

Lay your burdens down, burdens down, burdens down child x2

Chorus
I will come to you, come to you, come to you child x2
I will lift you up, lift you up, lift you up child x2

Let your tears fall down, tears fall down, tears fall down child x2

Variations
Lay your:  troubles/darkness/heartbreak/sorrow… down
Lay: what scares you/what’s hurting/what’s broken… down
Lay your: body/spirit/hunger/weapons… down
Lay your: anger/sadness/hatred… down
Lay your: power/whiteness/stigma/baggage…down

 

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We come together today to walk the way of the Southern Cross, and visit seven sites from our shared history.  There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.  We will hear the words of Christ on the cross, what might his words spoken in pain tell us?  We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

We acknowledge that we gather today on the land of the Marabalak people of the Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nations – people who have known the Creator Spirit, shared stories, and walked in this place since time immemorial – our elders past, present and future.

With the Creator Spirit
We walk the way of the Southern Cross
Under the Southern Cross
We hear again the words of Christ on the cross
With God deep among us
We seek healing and justice in our land

 

Site 1: A thirst for justice

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We are standing outside a house.  As every person has a story, so does every house.

This house was a house of comfort.
It belonged to a woman called Sally Russell Cooper. In the 1930s’s she opened its front door as a low-income boarding house and welcomed Aboriginal people to come and live with her. There were three bedrooms inside and a spare room out the back. Sally kept her front door open to her people until the 1970’s. For many Indigenous Australians, this house was, as Elders Larry Walsh and Reg Bow once said, “a refuge from loneliness and homelessness for more than 40 years.”

This house was a house of protest.
The 1930’s onwards were a time of momentum for Aboriginal people. During the Depression and the Second World War many Aboriginal people came to Melbourne seeking work. The growing political movement for Aboriginal rights also attracted people to Melbourne’s west. Sally’s father, William Cooper, was a significant local figure in the Aboriginal political movement fighting for basic civil rights. For many of the Aboriginal people who stayed in this house, there was hope of work at Kinnears Rope Factory and other factories nearby.  But the stronger hope was the hope of justice.

This house was a house of light.
Sally held lots of beautiful parties in this house. This was an important opportunity for Aboriginal people to socialise and support one another as society made it very difficult for Aboriginal people to gather together in groups.  This house was well loved as a safe gathering place.

Consider this house. The door. The windows.  The memory. Remember its story.

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Action
Choose a bushflower tube-stock from the basket, as an Indigenous version of the Hyssop plant, and take it home to a place of earth of your choice. Remember the story of the Aboriginal people in this country as you watch it grow.

 

Site 2: With and with each other

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328 family violence incidents were reported in Maribyrnong in 2013 rising to 974 in 2016 – that increase in incidents, nearly tripling, is largely due to more people speaking out.  We know that a woman is killed in Australia by her male partner or ex-partner nearly every week.  The most common myths are that violence against women is caused by alcohol and drugs, a man’s violent upbringing, living in poverty, anger management problems or mental health problems but for violence against women to become a thing of the past we need to change the causes: gender inequality and rigid gender stereotypes.

This sculpture is called With and With Each Other by artist Tom Bills and it feels like a fitting place to stand to think about equality.

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Action
Let’s take hands and Pass the Peace – exchanging these words:

Say: Peace be with you…
Answer: And also with you.

How can we be doing this amongst our family, friends and neighbours? We need to know what safe touch looks and feels like through education and role modelling.

In making a circle with our arms we are symbolically acknowledging the widening ripples of the impacts of family violence on individuals self esteem, self-worth, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing… The impacts on individuals, families, neighbours and communities… As we release our hands the circle opens, representing our commitment to breaking the cycles of violence.

Let’s walk with someone new, someone you don’t know or someone you don’t see as often as we move to the next station.

 

Site 3: Finding a place to call home

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We are standing outside Foley House. This is a facility run by the Salvation Army that provides accommodation and support for 46 residents – all of whom have been homeless, and all of whom are living with a disability.

Finding a place to call home is one of our most basic needs. For our Aboriginal friends the trauma of being removed from their homes is still very real and present. For asylum seekers dislocation comes at great cost and much grief.

But homelessness does not discriminate – our social dysfunction makes it a real possibility for anyone. The loss or casualisation of a job, the breakdown of a family, the rent increase from a landlord, the need to flee violence in the home, the disintegration of health, the history of abuse or neglect that is relived on a daily basis, the self-medication through drugs or alcohol: these are all social realities that can thrust any of us into homelessness.

There were 762 people who were homeless in the electorate of Footscray on Census night in 2011. Things are getting worse: this figure is 29 per cent more than in 2006. Across Victoria, there are 22,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Even this is just the tip of the iceberg. A skewed housing market benefits some greatly but places unbearable pressure on those at the bottom end. The injustice is often felt most strongly for those enduring the uncertainty of the private rental market. We live in a community where houses are seen as investments, rather than homes in which to live and thrive.

Action
Walk with a stone in your shoe as we move to our next location; as a reminder of the constant pain and anxiety faced by those who are struggling to find a place to call home. Are you facing this anxiety yourself? Give your stone to a friend to hold.

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Site 4: Room for all

Sometimes coming to Centrelink can feel like our own crucifixion; Our dependence on a system for which we detest; An experience of isolation and abandonment, judgements from ourselves and others about how we do and don’t fit in; About whether we are enough. A painful waiting that only allows you to survive – and gives no kind word, no compassion, and no understanding of who you really are.

Inequality and poverty in Australia are growing. There are now about 2.9 million people living in poverty, including 731,300 kids.  Centrelink will never be enough (not that that is new to anyone). It is like a well from which we draw water, and in Australia, it seems to be an increasing drought not only of money, but of healthy soil, and healthy people; people whose lives are rich in compassion, joy, generosity and the types of kindness that sows grace amongst the powers.

Today we remember that Christ became that spring when he called us into his family as he called John into his both spiritually and literally. He seeded in us the knowledge that we are duty bound to honour our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters in faith. To know that our own growth and ability to live is intrinsically caught up in family; a family that transcends bloodlines, a family that invites us to make bigger our sense of home, that calls us to dig our own wells.

Action
Place a dollar (provided) on the note at the foot of Centrelink:

For our debts and for their debts, we cannot pay.
Christ is enough.
Power remember Mercy;
Remember where we grow.
Remember those who hold us.
Remember those who raise us.
Remember those who crush us.
Woman here lives your son. Son here lives your mother.
Remember your way home. Remember Me.

 

Site 5: Seeking refuge and finding welcome

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Footscray is a community that generation after generation of migrant has made home. These days it is a multicultural hub with service providers such as the ASRC and community groups such as the Welcome West Wagon working alongside smaller community groups and individuals as well as movements such as Love Makes a Way to create welcome for people seeking asylum & refugees. People come to Australia with the hope of a better life but they are often left in limbo for many years.

A friend of ours, Maria, is an East Timorese woman who through a combination of civil war in her homeland, loss of family members and marriage breakdown has found herself stateless and alone with her young son in a foreign country. Under the terms of her temporary protection visa, she has limited work rights and little way to support herself and her son. She is reliant on friends and community agencies such as the Red Cross and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for accommodation, legal advocacy and food. At the present time she’s been in limbo for over five years, with little idea of when a decision may be handed down by the minister for immigration. She may be granted permanent residency and begin the process of building a life here, or she may be forced to leave. She prays every day for a permanent home in Australia. She lives generously in our community household, lovingly raising her son and extending friendship and help to others.

We acknowledge the perseverance of those seeking asylum and the commitment of all those who go out of their way to create a sense of welcome to refugees and those seeking asylum.

Action
With this chalk we leave our mark and remember that in this multicultural neighbourhood, we are mixed together: rich and poor; Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Italian, Scottish, indigenous; students, workers and non-workers; believers, agnostics and atheists; children and adults of all ages. We acknowledge the tensions and divisions that often exist between us.

We celebrate the diversity we see around us, and how it reflects the beauty of God. We leave our symbol of welcome to be reminded that we are created for connection; for family, for friendship, for shared work, for love. We leave our mark to remember that we need each other and that we are stronger.

 

Site 6: There is a place for you

IMG_5096On a Friday night in November of 2016, three LGBT+ people were assaulted in Footscray after being chased by three men. Security did not step in to stop the attack, and the three LGBT+ had to wait for 25 minutes before deciding to walk to the police station because no patrol car showed up. When the victims reported that the assault was a hate-crime against transgender and queer people, those details were not included by police officers. Like so many others in history, the hatred against these people for their diversity was ignored. The identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people has been ignored and persecuted in Australia.

When I was attending church, I was also asked not to raise my own questions, my doubts, my insecurities and my suffering as a gay person of faith. I was told, in person, that I was broken, and that my capacity for love was corrupted. After an act of honesty, the leadership of the church wanted me to silently accept that I would only be embraced in that faith community if I lived by standards which violated my own conscience and divine design.

We reflect on Jesus’ words to remember that ignorance, fear, and pride often stand in the way of our choice to extend Godly hospitality to our LGBT+ neighbour. In our own lack of love we fail to love our neighbour as we would ourselves. We reflect on the ways that we have excluded and silenced our LGBT+ neighbours, like the authorities attempted to silence the gospel. We reflect on the way that LGBT+ have been forsaken, like Jesus himself was on the cross.

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Action
We now stand in silent prayer for 30 seconds to honour the suffering of LGBT+ people who were forsaken.

Together we pray aloud, ‘Help us, Lord of all, to no longer forsake our LGBT+ neighbour’.

Place the rainbow crucifix with a prayer on the wall of the police station as a sign of the visibility of LGBT+ suffering.

 

Site 7: Earth out of Balance

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We all rely on the earth and its natural systems for life itself.

Its resources sustain us and grow us, yet our actions and failure to be good custodians continues to push things out of balance.  Taking more than we need, prioritising short term gain over long term sustainable thinking – we are seeing mountains and rivers be given legal identity so that they can be given a voice to speak in their own best interests.

Human activity is altering the climate, changing rainfall patterns, reducing water availability, and increasing the frequency of severe weather events such as bushfires and storms such as cyclone Debbie and Cook, we acknowledge those yet rebuilding and recovering in the wake of these storms.

To emphasise this imbalance, sea levels are predicted to rise by at least 600mm by 2070… that’s within most of our lifetimes.  At projected levels, this change in sea level will widen the Maribyrnong River, flood lower lying areas, and begin to change the face of our locality. A sea level rise of just 1m would threaten the surrounding homes and businesses and displace thousands. It would flood all of the city’s major cargo shipping docks and surrounding cargo storage areas, many of which are in our neighbourhood.

The call to be “custodians of creation” is a critical one, which drags us from the crushing weight of a global disaster to a place of restoration, respect and gratitude.

Action
Look around for something that doesn’t belong in this place; perhaps some rubbish or some weeds. Carry it with you as we start to travel to the next site, until you find a spot better suited for your rubbish to be placed.

Reflect on the ways your actions may keep creation out of balance.

Consider your role as a custodian.

Plan some simple steps to begin the healing process.

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Photo credit: Maya Stark

Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action.
Remember that justice is coming; God’s reign is coming

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Acknowledgements and Story

Aunty Doreen Wandin renamed Spencer St station to Southern Cross because they were able to see stars at the homestead in Coranderrk. Aunty Joy Wandin named Wurundjeri Way… We identify this constellation with “home”, and commit to the journey of finding and following the way home under these stars.

Uncle Wanta Jampijimpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body… We acknowledge the terrible and complex legacy of the church as colonisers in this place and give deep thanks for elders wisdom and grace in leading us to deeper truth and understanding the Creator Spirit who has always been here in this place.

Bill Wylie Kellerman, co-author of “Resistance and Public Liturgy”, role models and teaches us that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said: “We believe God has already intervened, breaking in to break out on behalf of human kind.  We recognise the authority of God [as bigger/beyond figureheads of power], we believe this is the meaning of the resurrection and we have come to say so”…  What does it mean for us – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a framework of hope as people of all faiths and none?

The Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community who shared their resource with us based on the work of Dr Norman Habel, the author of “Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul” which outlines the model for combining storytelling to action as a means for right relationship between people and with the land… We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

 

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Merciful God, we offer to you the fears in us that have not yet been cast out by love

 

Let us pray for all who suffer, and ask that God would give us peace:

For all who have died in the violence of war,
conflicts or acts of terror,
each one remembered and known to God.
May God give peace

For those who love them in death as in life,
offering to God the distress of our grief
and the sadness of our loss.
May God give peace

For all the peace-keepers and peacemakers,
and all who are in danger this day,
remembering especially their families and friends.
May God give peace

For those whose lives are disfigured by war,
conflict, acts of terror or injustice,
calling to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity
May God give peace

For all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership,
political, military and religious; asking for gifts of wisdom
and resolve in the search for reconciliation and peace.
May God give peace

For our country Australia, its land and seas;
its struggles in adversity, its courage and hope;
for tolerance and our respect for one another,
and our commitment for justice and reconciliation for all
May God give peace

O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those whose memory we cherish,
and those whose names we’ll never know.
Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world, and
grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
As we honour the past,
may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope,
now and forever.

Amen

 

 

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 4: Seeking justice for the poor

We value God’s priority for the poor and seek to prioritise the marginalised of Footscray.  We do not want to just show mercy, but instead offer our lives, in voice and activity, with those who we seek to serve.

Biblical basis: Jeremiah 22:16, James 2: 1-5


 

Let’s read the value together… what words/phrases stand out?

Who do we think are “the poor”?

Those who are poor in heart? in spirit? or without money?  It’s those who are poor in spirit that are worst off = those who feel empty.  When you eat you’re full. If you don’t eat you’re empty.

We need to be helping one another more.

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out?
What can we learn from the bible about living the Value: Seeking justice for the poor?

Jeremiah passage brought to mind people such as Donald Trump and Gina Rinehart…

Who gets behind and left out? What kinds of people?

What does it mean to “have a huge head-start in the faith stakes”?
Know how to be grateful.


 

 

Jeremiah 22: 16-17

“Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people,

who makes a fine house but destroys lives,

Who cheats his workers

and won’t pay them for their work,

Who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion

with spacious rooms and fancy windows.

I’ll bring in rare and expensive woods

and the latest in interior decor.’

So, that makes you a king—

living in a fancy palace?

Your father got along just fine, didn’t he?

He did what was right and treated people fairly,

And things went well with him.

He stuck up for the down-and-out,

And things went well for Judah.

Isn’t this what it means to know me?”

God’s Decree!

“But you’re blind and brainless.

All you think about is yourself,

Taking advantage of the weak,

bulldozing your way, bullying victims.”

The Word became flesh and blood,

and moved into the neighbourhood.

We saw the glory with our own eyes,

the one-of-a-kind glory,

like Father, like Son,

Generous inside and out,

true from start to finish.

 

The Message

 

James 2: 1-10

……..Sisters and brothers, if you really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, how come you still play favourites? If people walk into one of your meetings and you make a fuss of the ones dressed up to the nines and looking a million dollars, ushering them to the best seats in the house, while at the same time turning up your nose at those dressed like battlers, down on their luck, telling them to stand out in the foyer, aren’t you practicing apartheid, segregating God’s children? You’re as crooked as a judge who bases your sentence on the length of your skirt!

……..Get this straight in your minds, dear friends. God has turned the world’s opinion polls upside down. Those who have been deprived of what the world values have a huge head-start in the faith stakes. Their names are at the top of the list of those who God has chosen to inherit the riches of the kingdom. All who love God have an equal share in God’s promises, but you’re insulting some of them by means-testing your welcome.

 

 

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net


 

Reflection time… followed by sharing time.

Who are “the poor” in Footscray?

Offer our lives – in voice and activity…

  • what ways are we doing this now?
  • what ways could we start?

 

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Of communion, Jesus says I will not take this drink again until
I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

On Sunday 14 February we held a picnic lunch at the immigration detention centre in Maribyrnong. The first Sunday of Lent (and Valentines Day- let’s show the love) would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion the intention of the picnic was to physically create the space we would like to live in – that kingdom where Jesus might join us for a drink – even if only for an hour. How can we make that grass verge feel like space of celebration and welcome? How can we extend the expression of hospitality and welcome that we would like to see shown to refugees and asylum seekers?

With yarn bombing, banners, different flags, welcome in different languages, families and at each picnic blanket a spare place set at the table – a visual demonstration that there is room at the table for the ‘other’ and enough food to share.

In the face of the continued and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers including children and New Zealanders now the second highest number of those held in off-shore detention – we seek to respond with an act of hospitality, an act of welcome, and act of love – witnessing there is room at THIS communion table.

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Wominjeka, we acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation have gathered since time immemorial to tell stories, sing songs and share food together. We are gathered here today to do a little of all these things ourselves: tell stories, sing songs and share some food together around this idea of showing welcome to refugees and asylum seekers and we have chosen a specific place, time and context in which to do that.

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We are standing here in the carpark of what is now the VicUni Student Village…this used to be the site of the Pyrotechnic Section of an Explosives Factory (1942) which was built to produce flares, tracers and smoke grenades during the Second World War… a section of this was converted to the Maribyrnong Migrant Hostel (1966). Over here behind us is the new purpose-built Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (1983) – we are standing where refugees and migrants have been arriving for the last 50 years.

We are standing here at a particular time.  Today is Sunday 14 February, the first Sunday of Lent and Valentines Day – let’s show the love! The first Sunday of Lent would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion and the intention of this picnic is to physically create the kingdom space we would like to live in – demonstrating the kind of welcome and abundant hospitality we as Christians believe Jesus might extend and asking of our own discipleship how we feel called to respond.

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We are gathering during a particular context.  The Premier of our own state has come out against the federally legislated law, medical practitioners are refusing to sign off of returning patients to off-shore detention and the UN has condemned the treatment of refugees as breaching human rights… the government, media, society are all sending strong messages – in an environment that seems more focused on reacting out of fear than love, how might we respond with clarity and compassion?IMG_7334

We have folded layers of symbolism into our picnic today… you can see the crocheted heart bunting by Bron for Valentines Day, we have flags representing some of those countries and cultures making up the population of those in our detention centres, and we have empty plates – places set at the table for the ‘other’.  We live with asylum IMG_7343seekers and refugees, we invited them to write the word WELCOME in the language of their cultures on one of the plates and symbolically be represented here and we remember those stories that are still unfolding.

That is about as much story as there is from me, so let’s move on to the singing! We’re very lucky to have Sam here to be the lead liturgist today so look to her for any cues – we’re not going to sing these through a set number of times or anything, we’ll just keep going until she signals otherwise.

So, I will invite you to stand if you want to, in this place, at this time in this context and sing with me, this is not a new idea… we sing in the tradition of so many justice movements: civil rights, suffragettes, apartheid, slavery…in the words of Ched Myers to “Sing about it, until it can be realised”.

This first one is from the Ngatiawa River Monastry, up the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand, a contemporary contemplative community retreat centre.

 

Given for you  [link here to original version on the Ngatiawa website]

 This is my body given for you

Remember me.

This is my blood of forgiveness,

Remember me.

 

Tricia Watts is an Australian singer, composer, she’s used singing and dance for advocacy and therapy and to call people to unite in heart and voice. This next song is from her resource titled ‘Sanctuary’.   We want to offer Sanctuary, we want to link hand in hand, we want to hear the voice of justice cry.

 

Justice Cry

Hear the voice of justice cry,

Moving through our land,

Ringing out oer hills and plains,

Linking hand in hand.

 

Well, I guess the credit or the blame for this one is on me… many of you will have heard of the Love Makes A Way movement. They have undertaken a variety of actions but in particular sitting in politicians offices and praying for them has attracted media coverage. What might be less known, is that while the actions are being undertaken inside, there is a support team outside praying, singing and bearing witness to, and holding vigil with, what happens within. Samara has been one of the people playing that part and collating a Love Makes A Way song book. And as we were talking about it once we remarked the we were drawing heavily on the Freedom songs of the civil rights movement but their style and language were written for a particular context and a particular time – certainly we can borrow their songs but Samara posed the questions “Where are our songs? Where is the style or the voice arising out of our own context?” This song came out of trying to answer that… as I looked at the Freedom songs I felt like they communicated grief but called for hope, they were often short and memorable because as your walking around you need songs people can just pick up even if they don’t have the words in front of them. I wrote this trying to find words for a situation I don’t have words to explain. You might feel moved to offer your own words here in a verse … there is room for the children, there is room in our playgrounds… feel free to lead us! Speaking specifically to context, this was originally written “Let them in, let them in” but with the Sanctuary #LetThemStay initiative just this past week as we were rehearsing we changed it to read “Let them in, let them stay”

 

There is room

There is room at the table (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is room at the border (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is room in our hearts (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

There is hope for a new tomorrow (x3)

Let them in, let them stay.

 

Flowing on from the last song and our desire to have local songs coming out of our own context, I had a look around for who might already be producing words that hold this sense of lament and hope, short and memorable… this led me to make up the melody for the round you’re about to hear to Leunigs Love Is Born.  I think Leunig is a bit of a prophet, speaking out of hope and darkness, on behalf of many voices… I think “love is born”.

 

Love is Born [link here to a recording by Nathan Brailey]

Love is born with a dark and troubled face

When hope is dead and in a most unlikely place

Love is born,

Love is always born.

Love is born,

Love is always born.

This little ‘set’ wouldn’t be complete without a rousing Hallelujah chorus from the Freedom songs of the civil rights movement – it’s hard to know who to give credit to because groups of musicians gathered for “Sing for Freedom” workshops and wrote them together.  These songs were written to be a call for integration and confrontation of the status quo.  African-Americans in the 60s in the South were singing “Were gonna sit at the welcome table”, today we have to acknowledge that we’re already sitting at the welcome table, or the welcome picnic blanket… Again, you might be moved to call out a chorus of your own making! {e.g. We’re gonna share our songs and stories} By Samara’s hand now we will sing “they’re” as we aspirationally hold space and hope that those inside will one day come outside and join us at this table.

 

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days (hallelujah)

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

 

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey one of these days, (hallelujah)

They’re gonna feast on milk and honey

Feast on milk and honey one of these days (one of these days)

 

A-ll God’s chil-dren gonna sit to-gether

Yes, a-ll God’s chil-dren gonna sit together one of these days (hallelujah)

A-ll God’s child-ren gonna sit to-gether

All God’s children gonna sit together, one of these days (one of these days)

 

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Yes, they’re gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days, (hallelujah)

They’re gonna sit at the welcome table

Sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

Sit at the welcome table one of these days, (one of these days)

Gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days (one of these days)

 

Thanks so much for making the time today to come here – to stand, to sing, in a particular place, at a particular time, in a particular context to say something.

Let’s enjoy the picnic!

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Further rough notes for those interested in the background of how this picnic came about:

Last year, Mayra and I went to a conference called the Kinsler Institute and heard an amazing activist and speaker Bill Wylie-Kellerman doing a session on ‘Liturgy as Activism’.  He is the Minister of an Episcopal Church in Detroit where they’re experiencing some severe water cut offs and he described a Good Friday Stations of the Cross walk where they stood outside the water company, at the river, at block where there is only one house with people still living in it… there was something about singing or praying or standing in a particular place, at a particular time, in a particular context to say something that made it more powerful.

We came back from that conference inspired to imagine what a Stations of the Cross walk  might look like for our own context here in Footscray – we went to the Palms Motel where they provide crisis accommodation for people experiencing homelessness, we went to the river and reflected on the impacts of climate change, we came here to the Maribyrnong detention centre … most of you will know of the Christian tradition of communion, sharing bread and wine together, this is done symbolically because Jesus says ‘I won’t eat this again with you until I see you in my Father’s kingdom’. In a church we have communion and we eat it as a reminder of that promise… well, we came here and compared what it must feel like for refugees who take a long and dangerous journey to get here, who expect to find shelter, and safety and hospitality and instead…  we passed around an empty cup and an empty plate as a symbol of the kind of hospitality people have experienced arriving here.

Of communion, Jesus says I will not take this drink again until
I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.

We decided on Sunday 14 February we would hold a picnic lunch at the immigration dentention centre in Maribyrnong.

The first Sunday of Lent (and Valentines Day- let’s show the love) would often have a focus theme of a continued call to conversion the intention of the picnic was to physically create the space we would like to live in – that kingdom where Jesus might join us for a drink – even if only for an hour. How can we make that grass verge feel like space of celebration and welcome? How can we extend the expression of hospitality and welcome that we would like to see shown to refugees and asylum seekers?

With yarn bombing, banners, different flags, welcome in different languages, families and at each picnic blanket a spare place set at the table – a visual demonstration that there is room at the table for the ‘other’ and enough food to share.

In the face of the continued and indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers including children and New Zealanders now the second highest number of those held in off-shore detention – we seek to respond with an act of hospitality, an act of welcome, and act of love – witnessing there is room at THIS communion table.

Why here? A conversion of the New Pyrotechnic Section of the Explosives Factory Maribyrnong established in 1942 to produce flares, tracers and smoke grenades – the Maribyrnong Migrant Hostel first opened in 1966. Part of an ambitious assisted migration scheme that was implemented by the Commonwealth government in the late 1940s in order to increase Australia’s population. Until it was discontinued in 1981, this program saw thousands of British, European and Asian migrants start a new life in this country, temporarily accommodated in government hostels until they were able to buy or rent a house of their own. The Hostel has accommodated migrants from almost every national group that has arrived in Australia since World War II. Initially these were people from Britain and Europe but the later migrants arrived from Asia and South America and people escaping political upheavals in places such as Hungary, Chile and Vietnam. The hostel at various times also accommodated naval personnel, apprentices and evacuees from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Attempts by migrants to personalise their surrounding are apparent in a mural of windmills and tulips by Dutch migrants painted on the side of one of the surviving concrete bunker structures and a mural of an Asian scene that appears to have been painted by Vietnamese migrants on a section of wall of one of the ammunition stores located next to the Phillip Centre. This building also includes a number of paintings by children on its walls. Staff of the migrant centre also erected a large aviary attached to the former electrical substation that was part of the pyrotechnic works. (onmydoorstep.com.au/heritage-listing/35583/former-maribyrnong-migrant-hostel).  These site spaces are now occupied by Victoria University and in the last few years used predominantly for student accommodation.

The current, purpose-built, Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) was opened in 1983, set up for people who have over-stayed their visas, had their visa cancelled, or who have been denied entry into the country through international airports and seaports.  Unlike the Broadmeadows IDC which has been home to families and children, Maribyrnong IDC has been home for mostly adult single male detainees identified as medium/high risk and therefore it is a site that has had higher security.

In June, the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015 was passed.  The Citizenship Act has always said that if a foreign citizen or foreign national fights for a foreign country at war with Australia, they automatically cease to be an Australian citizen. Fair enough. The Bill adds three new categories of circumstances which will bring about the same result.

  1. Fighting for a terrorist organisation – still with you…
  2. Convictions for certain offences – if you’re a foreign citizen or national and you are convicted of any of a long list of criminal offences, your citizenship will automatically cease.
  3. Acting inconsistently with your allegiance to Australia – what does that even mean?

The protocol is that ASIO notices you’ve done a particular thing and tells the Immigration Minister who deports you. To do that, he has to accept that the factual allegations are correct. You have no right to be heard before he does so. You can contest it later but by this time you’re already on a plane.

(you can read more about this here if you’re interested: abc.net.au/news/2015-06-25/bradley-how-you-could-lose-your-citizenship/6572382)

At 30 December 2015, there were 1,792 people in held immigration detention facilities. Of these 1,792 people, around 18.6 per cent were from Iran, 10.2 per cent were from New Zealand, 8.0 per cent were from Sri Lanka, 6.5 per cent were from China and 6.3 per cent were from Vietnam. (Department of Immigration and Border Protection).

New immigration laws brought into effect back in December 2014 mean that anyone who has served a jail sentence of 12 months or more in Australia could be deported.  “We don’t want people who get into trouble, who have a criminal record, and those who fit into that category will have their visas cancelled and sent back to where they came from,” Australian senator Ian Macdonald said, saying that New Zealanders can’t expect special treatment.
“We love our cousins across the ditch but they must be subject to the same laws as everyone else.” [ The Australian, 29 Sept 2015]

It may be that New Zealanders thought they were being treated by the same laws as everyone else when they were convicted, served time and released just as an Australian might be.  That once they had observed due process and due punishment they were free to resume normal life, 5000 New Zealanders have done time in the last 10 years and these changes mean they can retrospectively be sent home.  I’m not trying to be permissive or whitewash anything these people have done. Clearly they are convicted criminals all. But surely we must ask whether it is fair to punish them now, again, a new law applied to an old crime?  These who might have family here, work here, barrack for an AFL team here… is it justifiable?  Is it justice?

With all these legislative changes, the population of the Maribyrnong IDC has housed both of these groups – convicted criminals whose visas are cancelled and are being sent back to where they came from side by side with refugees seeking asylum and safety.  I can’t find a number for 2015 but between 2010-2014 the number of “boat people” identified as legitimate refugees is over 90% in each year.  The treatment of the asylum seekers and the treatment of the criminals is the same. “Hard-line” centre managers from the prison system have been brought in – ex-prison guards who have a very different culture and mentality to officers who have been trained to guard asylum seekers amidst outbreaks of racial violence and hunger strikes .

People come to Australia with the hope of a better life but they are kept in the same place, and in many ways treated similarly, as criminals.  A friend of ours who has visited here – a refugee herself – has shared stories of the intimidation to herself of the conditions of entry; the boredom, the frustration, the fear, the hopelessness, the despair of those she met inside. She had her own complex needs but returned again and again not only to meet the hunger for Arabic home cooking, but for stories and news of life outside.

The latest development is this: all refugees in Maribyrnong are due to be moved to Broadmeadows which has recently had a high security upgrade. They were due to be moved already but it hasn’t happened yet – we have no way of knowing if this will occur prior to 14th of February.  This comes at a high cost to those at Broadmeadows IDC because along with the higher fence, more guards and greater security screening, comes heavier dehumanisation.

And, you know, some of the symbolism of our picnic is lost.

Or is it?

What a contrast over fifty years between a hostel and a prison, between encouraging people to move to Australia and border control to keep them out… but this place, this space, is where weapons were made that were used during World War II then offered a new start to some of the refugees of that conflict.  What has been used for building harm in this place has been transformed for building hope before… maybe we can build it again.

IMG_9047

As a nation we have not been taught about our own black heroes, we learn about great civil rights leaders from around the world. Dr Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are familiar within our vernacular however the black freedom fighters of our own country are left out of the history books.  From first contact through to today we have Aboriginal leaders like William Cooper that have shifted the course of history, that have resisted the colonial order of the nation and have led us in the ongoing goal to de-colonise our space, for equality, for better living condition, for health and legal care, for land rights.  These are the legacies that are left to be continued by the next generation of Aboriginal women and men.

The ‘tide of history’ has not washed away our connections to country or culture, it is our sovereign right and it is our obligation to our old people to maintain these.

 

“We must continue seeking for our rights”
William Cooper 1934

“We must realise that there is a greater purpose for us than to exist for ones’ own life”
Uncle Alf ‘Boydie’ Turner 2009

IMG_9049

William Cooper
Source: Museum Victoria

Yorta Yorta man Mr William Cooper had a vision for his people to live a better life, to be treated as equal citizens in a land that as he stated, by ‘divine right’ was theirs.  His story is remarkable and of great courage and strength, he fought for not only  his people but for others around the world being persecuted.  William was a humanitarian on a mission to create change.

Born on the banks of the Dungala (Murray River) in 1861 William lived his youth witnessing the frontier of change.  He saw the destruction of his homelands and the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people across the country but his strength as a proud Yorta Yorta man could not be taken and he dedicated his life to fighting for better rights of his people.

William had many hardships in his life, losing two children including Daniel Cooper who lost his life fighting in the First World War and also two wives, in this time raising his family in regional Victoria and NSW travelling to where he could work.  As an elderly man he moved from Cummeragunja mission to Melbourne to be able to receive the old age pension.  This was a time where many Aboriginal people were fleeing missions across the state, walking off in the hope for better living conditions and making their way to Melbourne.  The West, Fitzroy and Northcote were community hubs of Aboriginal people congregating, building a life in the city.

In this time he formed the Australian Aborigines League (AAL) and they would meet at his house in Footscray.  The AAL demanded that Aboriginal people should enjoy the same rights as all Australians. William became secretary and began writing many letters and petitionings to government on behalf of the AAL calling for civil rights and changes in government policy.  In this time he led many significant protests including a petition to King George V calling for Aboriginal representation in parliament.  He and the AAL also supported the Cummerangunja walk off in protest of the appalling living conditions and brutality inflicted on the community.  In 1938 William led a deputation from Footscray, walking into the city where thy presented the German Consulate with a letter demanding the Nazi government stop the ‘cruel persecution of the Jewish people’, this is the only known protest of its kind recorded in the world at that time.  Both his petition to the King and the deputation’s letter to the German government were refused.  William in his life time wrote over eighty letters petitioning for Aboriginal rights, equality and human rights and he never gave up the fight and his vision for a better future for his people.

This legacy has been carried on by his descendants including his grandson Uncle Alf ‘Boydie’ Turner who in recent years has accomplished his grandfathers work getting a new petition to Queen Elizabeth.  With his great nephew Kevin Russell and other family and supporters, he re-enacted the deputation to the city, marching to the German Consulate and handing over the letter that his Grandfather had tried to do many years before.

Four Koorie artists in this exhibition respond to notions of legacy and current political realities for our community.

Kiah Atkinson is an emerging artist and a relative of Mr William Cooper, Kiah’s sound piece tracks William’s journey from Yorta Yorta country to Footscray, creating an audio journey.

Paola Balla is an artist, writer and activist whose work ‘the homes that we had known’ is a personal story of connection to William through her Great Grandmother Mariah or ‘Puppa’ as she was known, who travelled 1500km on her own to attend the Day of Mourning in 1938.  Paola’s installation includes a bed frame with earth, leaves and flowers from her country; a poetic reflection to the hardship of mission life that her grandmother Rosie describes in a poem.  Paola commemorates the struggle of our ancestors whilst highlighting the strong Aboriginal women who were protesting and raising families in some of the most challenging conditions.

Tim Kanoa is a photographer who has been capturing the recent rallies against the forced closure of Aboriginal communities in WA.  Tens of thousands of people gathered to protest in 2015 and Tim’s work Ignite looks at how the legacy of protest and standing up continues to burn strong.

Arika Waulu’s work legacyliveson is a powerful meditation on sovereignty and the next generation of activists.  Arika’s projection of the 2015 rallies led by the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance along with an illustrated portrait of William is projected onto a wall of paper bark visas which are representations of sovereign nations.

Kimberley Moulton
Yorta Yorta



The ‘tide of history’ has not washed away our connections to country or culture, it is our sovereign right and it is our obligation to our old people to maintain these.

Reflection questions:

What does  the term ‘legacy’ evoke?

What is the significance of the actions of Uncle Alf ‘Boydie’ Turner and Kevin Russell?
What do you think Uncle Turner means when he refers to a ‘greater purpose’?

What ways do you/do you not feel connected to country and culture?

What vision do you have for a whole or healed world?
What could/are you doing to participate in building that vision to be a reality?

Do you think Aboriginal people have the same rights as other people in Australia now?

Yesterday I attended the book launch of “The Jihad of Jesus” by Dave Andrews… that’s a title that’ll get your attention…

I feel it takes a little explanation so I’m going to take the liberty of including Dave’s Preface here so that he is introducing the material in his own words…

“I do not write this an an expert. I am not.

I do not write this as a specialist. I am not.

I simply write this as a Christian, in conversation with Muslim friends, seeking to find a way we can struggle for love and justice that is true to the best of our traditions.

I am writing this for Christians who are concerned about the way Jesus has been (mis)represented by well-known crusading combative pastors, like Mark Driscoll.

I am writing this for Muslims who are concerned about the way jihad has been (mis)represented by well known militant extremist preachers, like Abubakar Shekau.

And I am writing this for people who subscribe to neither religion, but watch with horror, as Christians and Muslims slaughter one another in the name of God.

For many people jihad and Jesus are totally contradictory, mutually exclusive options.  You must choose the one or the other.  You cannot have both.  Given our present situation, Muslims would tend to choose jihad, Christians would tend to choose Jesus.

But it is my contention that – rightly understood -you can’t have one without the other.  in spite of the fact this may seem heresy to Muslims and/or Christians, I contend you cannot rightly pursue jihad without Jesus, or rightly pursue Jesus without jihad.

Reza Aslan’s book Zealot sets forth the case that Jesus was not simply a pious spiritual teacher, but actually a radical messianic activist. Of this there is no doubt.  Both Muslims and Christians believe Jesus was the Masih or the Messiah.  The debate is about what his radical messianic activism meant in the context of his time and what his radical messianic activism means in the context of the violence and counter-violence in our time.

If, as some would argue, Reza Aslan is right, Jesus could be a model for violent jihad.  But if, as I argue, Ahmad Shawqi is right, Jesus would be a model of nonviolent jihad: as

Kindness, chivalry an humilty were born on the day Jesus was born.  No threat, no tyranny, no revenge, no sword, no raids, no bloodshed did he use to call to the new faith.

The Jihad of Jesus is the sacred nonviolent struggle for justice.”

Dave Andrews, Bribane 2015

http://www.jihadofjesus.com

daveandrews.com.au

Nora (short, coloured, Muslim, woman) speaks first which is an important signal I think – the medium is the message.  She and her family build their home in a new development and meet with the neighbours regarding fence options and collectively decide not to have them but have the children stay, play, eat together… different religions, different cultures… five months later 9/11 happened.  She said “The fences will go up now” and they didn’t. Not until many years later when the family was to move.  They were known and, known, they were accepted.  Muslims make up 2.2% of the population in Australia (2011 census) – not likely to meet one but the culture of fear is being fed.  Nora felt called to speak out but Christians wouldn’t listen – “You won’t be accepted if you don’t remove your scarf”, serving her pork and giving her copies of the bible… someone suggested she meet Dave and she didn’t want to, this books captures 7+ years of the shared conversations that followed.

Dave (yes… tall, white, Christian, male) speaks second.  We believe in the same Abrahamic God- need to start where we agree and then explore other areas.  When 9/11 happened, Dave went to his local mosque and said “I’m sorry, they’re going to try and make it them and us (set us against each other) may I come in and join you in prayer as an act of solidarity?”

He gave Nora a copy of this books manuscript and has included her comments in footnotes where she has disagreed with him – minority/dissenting voice included.

Steps forward:

(Buy and read this book I reckon’!)

  • talk about it
  • live it out yourself
  • tell stories
  • invite others in
  • celebrate the wins

 

 

Further to our Stations of the Cross walk on Good Friday I made a lift-the-flap book for each of the families that participated.  How can we bring the messages of the high holidays into the everyday?  Kids know who cartoon and TV characters are because they are shown images of them, if we want them to learn to recognise our elders we must show images and share the words of these people… you cannot know what you haven’t learned, what you haven’t learned you cannot love.

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008 - Copy

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protest

Protesters make their way across Princes Bridge. Photo: Joe Armao

This month the Government announced that they were going to turn off/stop maintaining access to water, electricity, etc. in multiple rural indigenous communities and this protest came very quickly in response.  We like to think that “taking the land away” or dispossession was something that happened long ago and far away and has nothing to do with me but then something like this happens to bring it front and centre and our willful blindness is confronted by the reality: this is still an issue and it is still happening.

These are the words the protestors called in chorus:

“Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land”

Talk to me about economics. Talk to me about closing the supermarket so people had to travel for food, closing the school so families with children had to travel or move, talk to me about closing the petrol station – it might be true that some of these communities have only 4 people living in them but there used to be many more.

“Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land”

Talk to me about land and place.  There’s hardly any of them, why should they get special treatment? They can move to the nearest big town… to give you a sense of scale Kimberley is c. 3 times the size of England and has a population of 40-50K people.  The nearest town is, well, pretty darn far away – what we white fullas can forget is that indigenous Australia is a lot kimberleymore like Europe, made up of many different countries with their own language, and myths, and dances and traditions… this map on the left is rough overview of the First Nations Peoples and language groups in Kimberley.  This is their map of how they see the world –  we wouldn’t expect it to be reasonable to ask the Italians to move to the nearest town in France and give up everything that informs their own unique culture and identity and we should not ask it of Aboriginal people here either.

photo credit: kimberleyfoundation.org.au

“Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land”

Talk to me about civilisation.  We brought civilisation with us, did we not?  Are these people not better off because we bought them farming and livestock and tools and machinery they didn’t have before?  We brought in the piped water and wired electricity and overrode the old ways with our better new ways…?  There might not be many left who remember and could live by the old ways.  We’ve created a dependence and now you want to take the civilisation away? Did our civilisation include the law, and does the law include provision for human rights like access to water?  What is civilisation?

“Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land”IMG_5269

Tell me a story.  Tell me who your people are and where you are from.

At the start of some (too few) events, ceremonies or proceedings you might hear an Acknowledgement of Country… We acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Peoples of the Kulin Nations have been custodians since time immemorial.  I went to a cultural awareness training day with Aunty Doreen Garvey-Wandin a few years ago and she did this activity with sticky dots to illustrate how Aboriginal people have lived here for 50,000 years – if each dot is equivalent to 1,000 years – then this black drawing, on the very last dot, represents the 200 years of contact/settlement with us white fellas.  We are a blip on a landscape that was here long before we came.  We need to understand and be reminded of our place in the story of things from Aboriginal peoples point of view. While, I’m here I’ll point out that this is what makes “Australia Day” also so hard.  It marks (and celebrates) the anniversary of colonisation over the culture that had existed here many thousands of years prior.  These acknowledgements should not be empty words.  We eat, we play, we gather, we work – on land where indigenous people were here before us – doing those things first – for many, many years.

“Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land”

Talk to me about belonging.  Do we “belong” here?  I think there is something in the psyche of all of us asking this question because at some level, perhaps we sense the truth of having displaced others to enjoy the space we now hold.  I am from New Zealand, and we have our own history and yet unfolding story of fair trade for land, foreshores and fish – and who should be the custodians of these things.  We need to respect Traditionally Acquired Knowledge more than we do because people lived and ate seasonably and sustainably and can probably teach us a thing or two about living well in this climate and speak wisely into other current social issues.  Do I belong here in this crowd? It can be easy to feel smug – Maori is taught in our schools, we had a treaty and are hearing settlement claims, we have a Ministry for Maori Development… but that is not enough: Te Whiti, a Maori Chieftain, exhorts us to “Ask that mountain” – the land itself bears 076witness to what takes place beyond any particular action of my lifetime whether we have done everything that we can to make things right.  How might the Great Barrier Reef answer? Or Uluru? or The Big Pit in Kalgoorlie? I was proud to see the Maori flag raised and carried alongside the Aboriginal flag in solidarity.  Others who have experienced displacement themselves – they do not forget.  We need to recognise that living in a world that has more languages, more dances, more patterns, more stories makes it a more enriching place for all of us and is worth protecting and defending by us all.

We chant it together.  We claim and proclaim it publicly:

“Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land”

“When you haven’t got a homeland or place to go, you lose your identity,and personality and you become sick.
Where are these communities going to go?”

Indigenous activist, Rieo Ellis

Thanks to ANTaR for this summary of the issue:

Announcement to discontinue funding essential services in remote communities

  • In September 2014 the Federal Government announced that it would no longer fund essential municipal services including supply of power, water, and management of infrastructure in remote Aboriginal communities in Queensland, Victoria, NSW, Western Australia, and Tasmania, despite having done so for decades.
  • The South Australian government refused to sign an agreement, and the Western Australian government signed an agreement with the Federal Government for funding of $90 million which would fund services until June 2016.
  • The WA government announced that it would not pick up the bill beyond that time and would instead close between 100 and 150 of the 274 remote Aboriginal communities in the state.
  • The decisions by both the Federal and the State Governments occurred without any consultation with Aboriginal people in the affected communities.

How many people live in these communities

According to the WA Department of Aboriginal Affairs, there are around 12,000 Aboriginal people currently living in the 274 communities in WA, with around 1,300 living in 174 of the smallest. In 115 of those communities, there are around 500 people in total, or an average of 4.4 people per community.

What will the impact be of shutting down communities

Premier Barnett himself acknowledged that closing communities would:

“…cause great distress to Aboriginal people who will move, it will cause issues in regional towns as Aboriginal people move into them.”

Professor Patrick Dodson, Yawuru man from the Kimberley, who authored a review of small homeland communities for the NTgovernment said closing down communities would:

“…be disastrous, increasing access to drugs and alcohol and exacerbating social tensions,  which would flow on to antisocial behaviour and incarceration. The immediate consequences would be to create an internal refugee problem for the indigenous people.

He also said that breaking people’s connection to land:

“…would threaten the survival of Aboriginal knowledge and culture, because in towns people were restricted from camping, lighting fires, hunting and fishing.” 

What criteria will be used to close communities

It is not known where any closures might occur, nor what criteria might be used.  In fact, there has been great anxiety and uncertainty over this, particularly as no consultation has occurred prior to the statement being made by Premier Barnett.

The Federal Government prepared a document in 2010 titled “Priority Investment Communities – WA” which categorised 192 of 287 remote settlements as unsustainable. The majority of those assessed as unsustainable are in the Kimberley, with 160 communities in the region.

Non-Indigenous communities

We could not find any examples of government decisions to refuse to fund essential municipal services for non-Indigenous communities, including small communities in remote areas in WA. For example, the non-Indigenous community of Camballin (of about 300 people) is located near Looma (an Aboriginal community of around 370 people) in the Kimberly. Looma will be assessed by the Western Australian government for funding whereas Camballin will not.