‘We European Australians often claim one of the strengths of the Australian character is ‘caring for the underdog’. That claim is rank and blatant hypocrisy. We do not act with justice, let alone care.’
So said Dr. Peter Adam last night at the 2nd Annual John Saunders Lecture (held at Morling College) that Natalie and I attended.
In his lecture, ‘Australia — whose land?’ (now available here), Dr. Adam pulled no punches. He called the large-scale theft and murder that secured Australia for Europeans what it is: theft, murder and even genocide. And not settling for naming these things as crimes, he pointed out that they’re sin in God’s eyes.
Even if we (or our families) didn’t perpetrate these horrendous sins, we benefit from them — and thus stand condemned as recipients of stolen property and beneficiaries of murder.
But Dr. Adam didn’t just confront us with the brutal facts. He also asked the question, What is the Christian thing to do with such an odious history of sin? And answered by calling for the only genuinely Christian response to the presence of sin in our lives and history — that is, not just to apologise but to repent!
And, more controversially (the Herald report on this unhelpfully mixes up the terms — oddly, since a full transcript was available last night), Dr. Adam called for us to make recompense — either through restitution (returning what was taken) or satisfaction (returning something of equivalent value where restitution isn’t possible). Or as John the Baptist might put it ‘Bear fruit in keeping with repentance!’
Some concrete suggestions for how to do this were floated last night — including ‘Leave, if the Aboriginal people ask us to’. And I’ve thought of a couple more:
- Pray (bare activism is not Christian)
- Get to know some indigenous Australians (to my shame I don’t)
- Acknowledge country (it’s symbolic and potentially fraught with difficulty but could act as a kind of ‘corporate confession’ moment)
- Pick up your pen and write (adopting something like the Amnesty strategy for writing to unjust regimes)
Maybe you can extend the list?