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Quakers in Australia

Quakers & First Nations Peoples

First Nations Peoples Concerns Committee

Preamble

This we can say:

Millennia before Britain occupied Australia there were many complex indigenous relationships to country, which included the entire continent and its surrounding seas.
First Nations Peoples (FNP) were unlawfully and immorally deprived of their lands and liberties through force of arms, by the application of legal fictions such as terra nullius and the ignoring of specific articles from the British Crown for the protection of FNP rights.
The ongoing trauma felt by FNP as a result of past and continuing policies and attitudes of Australian governments and many non-FNP Australians, will be felt for generations to come.
It will take time, love and support for the healing of all. Reconciliation between FNP and non- FNP can only happen when we engage in compassionate listening, acknowledge past wrongs, and work together to create a process where the need for self-determination is acknowledged and respected.
The basic building block of a reconciliation process is created when trust, respect and deep relationships are undertaken by people engaging with each other, and learning from each other at all levels.
We believe that the process to achieve national reconciliation, freely agreed between FNP and non-FNP, should be supported by Quakers. This may include but not be limited to appropriate amendments to the constitution; and treaties, agreements and reparation documents at both national and regional levels.
Quakers will seek to create opportunities for FNP and non-FNP Australians to come together to develop a process of reconciliation and will bear witness to ensure fairness and equality for FNP if they choose to follow this course.


Yearly Meeting Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Referendum

Yearly Meeting 2017 accepted this timely Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Referendum, and its relevance to us today. Yearly Meeting encouraged Friends to bring this statement to life and to share it with all we meet.

A Quaker Statement 50 years after the 1967 Referendum.

We acknowledge the First Nations Peoples of Australia who have sustained this land for tens of thousands of years.
Our Quaker testimonies call us to be in right relationship with all peoples. As Quakers we are learning how to uphold First Nations’ Peoples and their descendants in Australia, in our joint ongoing journey towards justice.

We long for and are working towards a reconciled Australia, believing that the coming into right relationship between First Peoples, the original custodians of the land, and other Australians is fundamental to an inclusive non-violent, Australian society.

The 1967 referendum, enabling the Australian Commonwealth Government to pass laws in relation to First Nations and to include them in the Australian census, raised hopes that have not been fulfilled. First Nations Peoples tell us that, despite some improvements, they still see themselves at the ‘bottom of the pile’ in health, education and wellbeing.
We are mindful that the life we enjoy today is the result of the invasion and dispossession of their land, which led to the destruction of their culture and way of life. The continuing trauma from colonization damages us all.

The European perspective shaping much of the history of Australia has prevented us from valuing and embracing the wisdom and knowledge of the world’s oldest continuing cultures. We are and can all be enriched by their wisdom and knowledge.

We deplore the continuing devastation of culture, for example the overreaching of the Northern Territory Intervention, the continuing struggle of First Peoples to control their lands and resources, their over-representation in the prison system, the removing of children, substance abuse and suicide.

To create the peaceful co-existence we seek, we need to acknowledge the past in all its complexities, provide reparation for past and current injustices, and recognize the wisdom in all our cultures, perhaps through a truth and reconciliation process.

Therefore, we commit to ‘Come Right Way’ and ‘Care Right Way’ and seek in our daily lives to:
  • educate ourselves about the history and present reality of the First Peoples of the lands we reside on, and uphold their right to self-determination;
  • understand the issues surrounding recognition and sovereignty;
  • learn from the history of the complex relationship between First Nations and other peoples, spanning massacres to cooperation;
  • foster respect for sacred places and newer sites of significance e.g., Tent Embassies and city parks;
  • discern the racism within ourselves, and work towards justice, peace and healing for us all.


Role of Quakers in support of First Nations Peoples

Involvement in the reconciliation process.

What actions?

  • Acknowledge our advantage and our responsibility to educate ourselves with regards to history, culture, and spirituality
  • Individually and collectively reflect on right relationships with FNP
  • Make contact at a local level
  • Identify and offer tools, for example, AVP and other modes of non-violence training, governance, mediation and negotiation skills; and provide facilitation if and when requested.

We ask Regional Meetings to report to AYM about their work with FNP, reflecting on these questions adapted from Reconciliation Australia:

  • What might I do differently and what might Quakers do differently to build better relationships with the First Nations Peoples of Australia?
  • What might I do differently and what might Quakers do differently to have and show respect for the First Nations Peoples of Australia?
  • What might I do differently and what might Quakers do differently to bear witness to the ongoing conditions of First Nations Peoples’ health, education, land rights and other areas related to self-determination?

Access full paper here

[Adopted by Australian Quakers at Yearly Meeting 2015]

 

'Coming Right Way'

Coming Right Way: 'doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly' in Australia by the late Susannah Brindle was published in 2002 as part of the Emu Feathers Series by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia.
Susannah writes: 'Anyone, anywhere can "Come Right Way". If "Reconciliation" is about coming into right relationship with Aboriginal Peoples, "Coming Right Way" is an important pre-condition of this process.'

Access the full paper here.

Friends and Indigenous Peoples

Backhouse

A testimony to social justice and racial equality has been part of the Quaker witness to the world since the inception of our Religious Society of Friends in Britain in the 17th century ...

In 1691 William Penn signed a treaty of friendship with the Delaware tribes of American Indians, arranging for fair payments for lands taken…John Woolman, in 1756 persuaded Quakers in Philadelphia to pay for land stolen from the Indians by others.

In the 19th century, two British Friends, James Backhouse and George Washington Walker (pictured right) travelled through the Australian colonies and were forthright in their statements to influential figures in Australia and Britain concerning the cruelty and injustice meted to the Australian Aborigines, especially urging payment for land taken from them.

(From paragraph 5.22 of this we can say; Australian Quaker life, faith and thought, 2003.)

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