Monday, 28 January 2008

Delungra, Myall Creek and Bingara

Today the Cross and Icon travelled to the town of Delungra. We participated in an ecumenical procession through this small town and ended up with about 100 people present from the 300 in the town!
We also visited the memorial at Myall Creek. Rather than try to describe what happened here, we felt it would be better to include the Speech given by Bronwyn Hickey.

It is with great pleasure and also great sadness that I stand here today as a young Aboriginal women from Gamilaraay country.

It is a pleasure to talk about the great significance of this site as we stand here today. It is however a sad time too in remembering our history. But I am happy to stand here and share with you our history as I think it is important to keep the reconciliation process in our minds. I believe that educating people about how our people suffered at the hands of non-Aboriginal people will help people understand justice, peace and love are important.

This place is very significant to Aboriginal people because this is where the Myall Creek massacre occurred in 1838. It was appalling and vicious.

A group of 12 stockmen rounded up a group of Aboriginal people who were camped peacefully on the property. There were old men, women and children. They gathered them together by tying ropes around them and then they butchered them.

However it is important that the men were tried under the authority of the Governor of the Colony of New South Wales at the time, Governor Gipps, and they were found guilty. This was the first time non-Aboriginal people had been charged for killing Aboriginal people. This was the turning point in our joint history.

Justice for Aboriginal people in Australia would change from this finding. It was the beginning of the reconciliation movement in this country.

This memorial, and the annual ceremony held here, honours all Aboriginal people who died here and all over our country, and also all those good people who have stood up for justice for our people, such as the Myall Creek station manager William Hobbs who reported this massacre and was denied employment afterwards because of that; the Police Magistrate Edward Denny Day, who pursued the case, despite public animosity towards anyone who stood for justice for Aboriginal people.

The annual memorial ceremony here has been the occasion for very moving expressions of reconciliation, where descendants of the perpetrators have offered an apology to descendents of the survivors and both have embraced here at this site in tears.

In talking about this story in our history it reminds me of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life for us. Our Lord Jesus was crucified under such hatred. It is through the Lord that we find that justice, peace and unconditional love that we all search for. A reading from the Holy Gospel that sticks out in my mind in talking about justice states in the words of Christ Our Lord:

If you are bringing your gift to the altar and there you remember your brother (or sister) has something against you, leave your gift at the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother (or sister) first, then come and offer your gift.

The Gospel is saying that worship and prayer without true love and justice for others is hypocrisy.

The Cross, Icon and Message Stick we see here today at a site so significant to all Aboriginal people brings that unconditional love and forgiveness. World Youth Day is about finding that unconditional love, justice and peace with the Lord. It is where young people such as myself come together to share that journey in faith and love.

The World Youth Day Cross has been to other places around the world where there has been great evil and much suffering – like Ground Zero in New York, where the atrocity of terrorism inflicted death and grief, similar to what happened here at Myall Creek. We pray in the words of St. Paul that just as “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” on Calvary, God may grace us to work for a reconciled world.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen to be the Armidale diocesan representative to receive the Cross and Icon in Sydney when they arrived in Australia. It was a very emotional experience for not only me but my family who came with me to experience the Cross. The Cross has an unseen power that each of you today will experience and remember for the rest of your life. It is the presence of that unconditional love and justice that it brings to all those who come into contact with it.

The ceremony at Myall Creek today was very moving – something I will never forget.

The final event today was a procession into the town of Bingara for a big youth celebration. People were bussed in from all the parishes in the diocese and it concluded with an amazing fireworks display courtesy of Fr Anthony’s "Holy Smoke"! What an amazing witness we have seen from the people of Armidale!


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