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Giving voice to First Nations people

Giving voice to First Nations people

Giving voice to First Nations people

28 January 2019

Commissioners Floyd and Tracey Tidd make commitments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the presence of Salvationist Uncle Vincle Ross and Wurundjeri elder Uncle Norm Terrick. Photo: Bruce Redman

By Simone Worthing

The Salvation Army’s Indigenous ministry leadership has praised a series of commitments made by the Army to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

During the launch of the Australia Territory last November, territorial leaders Commissioner Floyd and Tracey Tidd outlined the Army’s commitment to First Nations people, and its plans for working and ministering more effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Shirli Congoo, The Salvation Army Territorial Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministry Coordinator, based in Townsville, said that by giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the National Reference Group and ministry leaders more access to the wider Salvation Army, “the organisation will develop in its cultural intelligence, ministry opportunities and impact”.

“[These announcements] will give Indigenous people a voice in a responsible and self-determined way nationally, divisionally and in a local context,” said Shirli.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people who attended the [Still Others] celebrations and spoke with us at our ministry booth, walked away with a renewed sense of inclusiveness, reconciliation and motivation to a continued commitment to educating, equipping and empowering Salvation Army social programs and mission expressions.” 

The commitments made by the territorial leaders are: “There are some wonderful stories, both from the past and present, where relationships have been built and together we have accomplished great things. Yet we must also acknowledge that there are decisions and actions for which we are deeply sorry and repentant. We would not want to ignore this reality and on this occasion we would want to offer a sincere apology for those times when we have failed both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and, indeed, God.

“As we step into the future we make an intentional and renewed commitment to “actively journey and partner in mutual respectful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples. We do this recognising that it is for our mutual flourishing.

“We will work together because we believe that God calls us to stand alongside those struggling for recognition, reconciliation and social justice. Ours is a spiritual journey that must be undertaken together. We know that we cannot truly flourish in an Australian context without the wisdom, patience and guidance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“As the leaders of the Australia Territory we commit to The Salvation Army taking the important step towards understanding, respecting and considering the worldviews of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, encouraging culturally appropriate working and ministry practices, and valuing the cultural diversity that enriches, motivates and will move us forward.

“We commit to reconciliation and self-determination by giving a voice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through representation at the executive board level, the continuation of our National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Board, the growth of our National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministry Team of First Nations staff members who will oversight building the cultural capability of our social programs and ministry expressions at a national, state and local level.

“We want to be courageous – and we need strong champions within to drive it – and be open to the advice and influences of strong First Nations community people who can sit at the table with us to share challenges and give us valuable insights, which give us an opportunity to grow, and to also sit with us to share our successes.

"It is our sincere desire to listen, to learn and to respect your contribution and guidance as we seek to live up to the calling God has placed on The Salvation Army in Australia.”

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