Grace, a third-year law student at Macquarie University, shares her story and hopes as a young Indigenous woman.
Family is an important pillar of my life, but as an individual finding my place in Australia, I have not always known my family history.
As a young person, I searched for parts of me that had been lost for years. But when I was 24 years old, I discovered that my family was part of the stolen generation. I found I was an Indigenous Australian, and my family’s place was with the Juru people in Ayr, Queensland.
That was an important development for me: it was an opportunity to learn more about where I come from and to start filling the void I’ve felt in my being all my life. My life has been a puzzle that I am still puzzling through – a lengthy and complex process.
The stolen generation involved the forced removal of children from indigenous families under a policy of protection and assimilation. The apparent goal was for Indigenous people to be integrated into Australian society and achieve the same standard of living. Our colonial so-called ‘protectors’ thought they knew what was best for us, but the policy caused severe discrimination, injustice, and hardship for the indigenous people. Families had fallen apart, including mine. We are still recovering from the grief and loss.
If there had been a constitutionally guaranteed Indigenous body at the time to advise on Indigenous policy…perhaps the stolen generation could have been avoided. I wouldn’t have felt so empty in all these years.
This history is part of why Indigenous Australians advocate for a constitutionally guaranteed vote of the First Nations. We need a guaranteed voice in the laws and policies made about us to ensure better decision-making and fairer policies. To ensure that these past mistakes are not repeated.
Had there been a constitutionally guaranteed Indigenous body at the time to advise on Indigenous policies, past discriminatory policies might have changed and improved. Perhaps the stolen generation could have been avoided, and I hadn’t felt so empty all these years. Things could have been different.
This week has given me hope. We have seen Australia’s religious leaders side by side in a joint resolution calling for action on the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This means a lot to me, especially as I am a Christian.
Historically, there has been tension between Christianity and Indigenous Australians. The colonial perspective was very different from today. Some Christian missions regarded Indigenous Australians as less than or had a low view of them as human beings. Others were more caring and saw value in native traditions. Some missionaries arranged for Bibles to be translated into native languages, which helped preserve our culture.
Despite its complex history, the impact of Christianity on Indigenous Australians – myself included – has been decisive. Things have changed in many churches, from once controlling to being more understanding. Christianity has taught me core values such as peace, love, kindness, and forgiveness. It also taught me the importance of equality.
Christianity has taught me core values such as peace, love, kindness, and forgiveness. It also taught me the importance of equality.
The Bible states in Acts 17:25-28 that “God made all races and nations, all of us by one blood for his purposes.” It explains that God has made us all equal. We are all inherently linked, so we must support each other. We must unite as one nation, supporting each other and connecting with the land and the people. This biblical perspective makes the support of Christian organizations strengthening the need for an indigenous constitutional voice invaluable.
As my home, I know Australia is a place of beauty, goodness, and potential. But I also see ways in which Australia needs to change. IImplementingthe Uluru Declaration is crucial in making Australia an even better country than it is.
Indigenous constitutional recognition must be a practical part of this change. A constitutional vote from the First Nations will help end the cycle of past failures in Indigenous affairs, ensure we are heard, and improve policy. It will help us close the gap. It will even change my daily life as I go to church, knowing that my fellow Christians and Australians walked side by side with me and supported this change.
So, thanks to those churches and religious organizations who stand alongside Indigenous Australians for calling for a constitutionally guaranteed Indigenous vote in Parliament. I pray that we will continue to fight for change together and not stop until we see it happen. Then I will know that my home is finally united and committed to working together for a better future.