Brisbane university student Haileigh Childs admits she had little understanding of Aboriginal culture prior to immersing herself in the About FACE program.
“My relationship and understanding was virtually non-existent before. I was not actively seeking to be involved but now I will be seeking to learn more about the Aboriginal people in my own area.”
Haileigh, who worships at Bulimba Uniting Church in Brisbane, was one of 17 participants in About FACE 2015, organised by Victoria and Tasmania Synod Commission for Mission. The program ran for 16 days in January.
About FACE stands for Faith And Cultural Exchange and has been an activity of the Uniting Church in Australia since 1984. It aims to build meaningful relationships with Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) communities.
It celebrates the covenant relationship between the Uniting Church in Australia and the UAICC, and encourages participants and those supporting them to be actively involved in covenanting and working together for reconciliation in the church and in the wider communities.
The program has a strong focus on working collaboratively with all partners to ensure that the program is beneficial for everyone, from host communities to participants.
Host communities are identified by the UAICC to strengthen and build upon the already existing relationships with the Uniting Church.
This year the ten female and seven male participants from Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland were split between the outback South Australian town of Port Augusta, Alice Springs and Ernabella in the Northern Territory, Lismore in northern New South Wales and Grovedale in Victoria.
Following a week in their chosen community, participants spent a further week engaging with more than 150 UAICC representatives at the UAICC national conference in the northern Tasmanian village of Poatina as well as participating in briefing and debriefing sessions.
Haileigh says she, like so many other non-Indigenous Australians, had little opportunity in the past to sit at the feet of Aboriginal people and learn more about their way of life.
Adnyamathanha elder Denise Champion, the Chair of the UAICC in South Australia, says About FACE is an important beginning point for people seeking to develop a relationship with the First Peoples.
“They are adopted into our families and we welcome them to come back ,’’ she says.
“It is just the tip of the iceberg but it makes it a lived experience which is life changing for many.”
For more information visit aboutface.org.au