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Taking steps towards reconciliation

Taking steps towards reconciliation

Taking steps towards reconciliation

16 September 2020

Hikers take in a spectacular view during the ‘Step Towards Reconciliation’ two-day trek along Western Australia’s Bibbulman Track. The Salvation Army-run event was joined by two local Aboriginal elders who walked the hikers through a ‘journey of reconciliation’. Photo: Joel Gibson

By Lauren Martin

The Salvation Army in Western Australia has partnered with other agencies to run a two-day hike aimed at starting conversations and activism around reconciliation.

Aboriginal elder Tom Little shared stories and music on the trek. Photo: Joel Gibson

The Bibbulman Track journey – A Step Towards Reconciliation – has been run for several years by another agency, but this year The Salvation Army took a lead role, with its Perth-based Urban Missions Movement leading the venture to hike, listen and yarn with Aboriginal elders.

Auxiliary-Lieutenants Marenda and Steve Freind, Urban Missions Movement leaders, said the weekend was a powerful time of sharing and healing.

“The whole point was to walk the land alongside them [the Aboriginal elders] for a whole weekend, to share the journey of pain and healing and forgiveness moving towards reconciliation,” said Marenda. “And we reflected on our own journeys of pain and forgiveness and what has our part been in white privilege and prejudice, and, moving forward, what kind of commitment we can make for the future.”

The Bibbulman Track is one of Western Australia’s great long-distance walking trails, stretching 1000 kilometres from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills, to Albany on the state’s south coast. The ‘A Step Towards Reconciliation’ walk took in just a fraction of the track, with 11 members of Marenda and Steve’s Urban Missions Movement taking part, as well as five young people from a youth housing service supported by Anglicare WA, which provides stable housing and education for young people at risk or experiencing homelessness.

Local Aboriginal elders Tom Little and Mary Yarran accompanied the group, sharing stories and promoting a discussion. “It was a real journey of listening to nature, listening to stories, listening to God, and listening to what God is calling us to do around reconciliation,” said Steve. “Around how two cultures can walk side-by-side together so that conversations around reconciliation and healing can begin.”

At the start of the trek, during a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country, special guest Western Australia’s Police Commissioner Chris Dawson spoke about his heart for reconciliation and about the fact that the hike wasn’t just a two-day journey, but a lifelong commitment to seeing change come.

Hikers take part in a yarning circle around the campfire. Photo: Joel Gibson

A highlight of the hike was a yarning circle around the campfire on the Saturday night, during which participants were encouraged to be vulnerable in their discussions. The next morning, Steve and Marenda set a challenge to the group: “Out of the vulnerability, what had God called people to do around action?”

“The whole concept [is that] a changed life over this weekend can then change a generation,” said Steve. “The whole point of the walk was to walk together, to listen and journey and ... start the conversation. It wasn’t a weekend to start and finish, it was a weekend to start and then activate that moving forward.”

The walk also reflected The Salvation Army’s commitment to its National Reconciliation Action Plan, launched earlier this year by Commissioners Janine and Robert Donaldson, Australia Territory leaders.

“It [reconciliation] is the living out of our Christian call to love one another as Christ has loved us. When we have built trust and confidence in our relationships, we connect together in healthy ways. We can work together as partners in our local communities,” Robert said.

“Reconciliation reflects the heart of God for all people and is at the very heart of God’s mission in the world.”

The hikers who are participating in The Salvation Army Urban Missions Movement are now grappling with what reconciliation looks like going forward in their hearts, homes and communities, and putting it into action.




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