It was the final catalyst and motivator for a five-day gathering in August 1982 at Crystal Creek, North Queensland, 37 years ago this month.
Rev. Charles Harris was a leader who saw the absolute necessity for Aboriginal and Islander Christians to be self-determining. From the early days of the Aboriginal Urban Mission in Brisbane (UCA) he then made connections with the Cape communities of Queensland, the Arnhemland communities and then nationally. Charles had the unique ability to bring Aboriginal and Islander people together.
Crystal Creek was a visionary gathering, looking beyond what was to what might be. The development of an Australian theology relating to Aboriginal issues, challenging Churches to take action on these issues and developing a Christian commitment to the struggle of the First Peoples of Australia.
The gathering determined:
- to establish a National Congress
- the appointment of an interim committee
- to request of the Uniting Church, funding and ongoing support, including a request for property to be transferred.
The following year from 22-26 August 1983 at Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island, Northern Territory, a National Conference inaugurated the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress within the UCA.
Charles later described the conference: “It was a discovery, of one another, of culture, and of common faithfulness… It was a conference dedicated to searching for the will and purpose of God.”
The passion and vision birthed at these historic meetings for First Nations Peoples has not subsided in hearts and minds of members of the UAICC.
To be freed from the shackles of colonialism, to express their own experience of the Creator God, to develop their unique theologies, to advocate for justice for Indigenous peoples within the Church and nation, and to proclaim the gospel of love and inclusion.
The challenge which is always before us as the people of God is to realise our destiny together.
A destiny which springs forth from this ancient land and her Creator, and which is only possible if justice for First Peoples rolls on like a mighty river and righteousness like a never failing stream!
Reference:‘Charles Harris A Struggle for Justice’, William W. Emilsen 2019, MediaCom
Photos Below: Rev. Charles Harris and Auntie Dorrie, who worked together from the beginning to bring about justice for First Peoples.