I’m Stuart McMillan, President of the Uniting Church in Australia speaking to you from Stanwell Tops in NSW.
I want to pay my respects to all elders past and present of the Dharawal Nations and to their descendants who have cared for these lands and waters since creation.
This is Yuróra 2017 - a national multicultural festival of faith for Christian youth.
It’s a community that represents the rich and vibrant cultural and linguistic diversity that is our Church and the Australian community today.
My hope for us as Australians is embodied in the passion of this community.
For the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples here January 26 marks their survival as the First Peoples of this ancient land.
Our heritage as a nation began long before 1788, it began at creation.
The First Peoples are the oldest living culture on the planet and that is something to celebrate!
So on January 26 I’ll celebrate the survival of my friends, their ancient languages, law and culture.
I’ll mourn the hundreds of thousands of lives lost through violent conflict and colonisation.
I’ll mourn the stolen generations’ disconnection from their heritage.
I am committed to honouring First Peoples as sovereign over these lands and waters, to recognising our nation’s brutal history and to a negotiated “just terms” way forward for us as a mature nation.
I call on members of the Uniting Church in Australia, and all Australians, to mark January 26 with respect and honour for Australia’s First Peoples.
May the Creator Spirit guide us to a maturity which recognises our past and enables us to embrace our future together as Australians.