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A different logic of encounter

  • 30 September 2022
Welcome to 'Stray Thoughts', where the Eureka Street editorial team muses on ethical and social challenges we've noted throughout the week.  I’ve been privileged to be at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) Assembly in Townsville this week. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country.

One of the things I love listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics is the way their culture informs and enriches our faith. The theme of the assembly was, ‘Holy Spirit is in this land’. The word in is important. It speaks of a deep connection to the land as First Nations people, and a relationship with the Creator as Christians.

‘The Holy Spirit has been with us all the way. Not just since Christianity set foot on these shores’, said Louise Campbell, a keynote presenter at the assembly.

In the early 1960s, Louise and her brothers and sisters were stolen from her parents in Bowraville. She reconnected with her family, and her culture, as an adult, and for many years has worked to promote and educate people about the Aboriginal story in Maitland-Newcastle.

Louise spoke about her own journey of healing from the trauma of separation, for which the Church shares significant responsibility. But the same religion that helped inflict such pain has also given her a framework for healing. 

‘When you start getting deep, and having a deep relationship with God, with the Holy Spirit, you start to understand and realise that it’s the Holy Spirit and God who’s going to help us show the way’, she said.


'There are, and there have always been, ways that First Nations people and Australians can enrich each other’s lives. Our society’s still struggling for reconciliation because too many of us are not open to the sort of conversion of minds and hearts that real listening demands.'  

‘We will jump into these deep chasms of sadness. There’s the taking away, there’s the removals, everything that nearly destroyed our culture. But we keep striving as a people.’

There’s a familiar settler logic at play in Australian society’s (and sadly to often the Church’s) relationship to First Nations people. We can even see this logic in accounts that have emerged in the Australian Football League last week. The logic goes: What you have is not good enough. It needs to be destroyed to make way for something we think is better.

Too often that’s been our society’s