January 26 is not a day of celebration for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. It is a reminder of the lasting impacts of colonisation and dispossession and for many, a day of grief and mourning.
Uniting Vic.Tas stands in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in recognising the injustices, dispossession and trauma that began over 230 years ago on 26 January 1788. We recognise the continued impacts of colonisation through dispossession of land and disconnection from family, culture, and Country. These include removal of children and over-representation of Aboriginal people in our prisons.
The outcome of the 2023 referendum, while deeply disappointing and a source of tremendous pain for many First Nations people, only deepens Uniting Vic.Tas’ strong support for the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and reaffirms our solidarity with First Nations communities in their ongoing fight for self-determination.
We deeply regret the legacy of past Uniting Church policies and practices that continue to detrimentally impact the identity, dignity, and spirit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Uniting Church’s founding denominations, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian, cooperated with governments in implementing racist and paternalistic policies which forced people from their traditional lands, resettled them in other places without their agreement and removed generations of children from their families. These and other actions caused incalculable suffering, grief, loss and trauma to parents, children, and kin, and the loss of languages and cultural identity.
On January 26, we stand alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. We recognise and celebrate the strength, resilience and resistance of our First Nations People. We recognise and respect their sacred connection to the land for over sixty millennia and we pay our respect to Elders past, present and emerging, on whose land we live and work every day.
As the community services organisation of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, we affirm that the Uniting Church in Australia has long called for a change in the date of our National Day and has urged the Federal Government to promote community discussion towards finding a date that has greater power to unite than 26 January.
As a nation, we must find a date for a National Day which unites all Australians. A day we can celebrate this country as home to the oldest continuing culture on earth.