An Offering for Australia Day

From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth.
He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall,
and he determined their boundaries.
“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God
and perhaps feel their way toward him
and find him—
though he is not far from any one of us.
For in him we live and move and exist.
As some of your own poets have said, ‘

Following is a reflection from Graham about Australia Day. We realise that this is a journey, and we may be in a very different place than you in some of our perspectives on Australia Day. We respect that and appreciate the various voices God has brought into our lives.

I’m typically Australian. I love a public holiday. I love hanging out. And I love a summer time barbecue. But I can no longer do this on Australia Day. Yet as we approach another 26 January, I am determined to do something, rather than nothing, this year.

As a child, I could celebrate ‘our national day’ and revel in the stories of the first settlers arriving on the east coast of Australia after nine arduous months at sea. My own drive to explore and to have adventures resonated deeply with the tales of the early explorers, and the idea of discovering the vast unknowns of the Australian continent. I admired their courage and fortitude.

Now in 2021, I have a better understanding of the devastating impact that European settlement had on the peoples who were here first. I’ve come to recognise that part of history was hidden from me in my early education. Newspapers, historical sources, and artwork all point to a different history than I was taught. I now acknowledge the violence, the innocent suffering, and the loss of language, culture and identity that was perpetrated in the past, and whose echoes continue to sound through Australian civil society. This past cannot be denied, and I am thankful for the proliferation of source material, books, interviews, and testimonies, which have laid bare to me the realities of Australian history.

So this year I want to try a ‘new’ tradition. I want to do something on Australia Day to mark this historical reality. I am planning to take time to read some indigenous authors and listen to great indigenous music (so much to choose from). I want to wander our yard and pause and appreciate the native Australian plants that are flourishing in our space. And I want to pause to pray. To pray for Australia’s indigenous community; to cry out to the Father for peace, hope, healing, and grace; and to pray for an ability in my little corner to make a difference and be an agent of change.

Even as I recognise the realities of Australia Day and our history, I also want to take time to reflect and even celebrate my own heritage. I’m an Australian, but as a recent settler, I have shallow roots. My family has been in Australia for only a few generations, and I have to recognise that. It’s been a couple of generations since members of the Scott family celebrated its Scots heritage. The great uncle who judged bagpiping and highland dancing at highland games both in Australia, and in Scotland, is long gone and almost entirely forgotten. There have been no rowdy Burns’ Night celebrations in my lifetime. No rousing choruses of The Skye Boat Song. My knowledge of the Border Scots language only consists of a few isolated words. My Scots identity is only a fragment, but it is real and it is a part of me.

My identity is a complex series of fragments – the Australian settler, the Scots heritage; now bonded to life and experiences in the United States and Indonesia. Marriage to Ellie, and her heritage as USA settler and Argentinian add to the fragments that make up the hybrid that I am.

This year, I propose that Ellie and I will take the opportunity today, the day before Australia Day, to celebrate Robert Burns’ Night. Robbie Burns is perhaps the most famous of Scottish poets; the author of Auld Lang Syne, as well as the address to the glorious haggis. So Ellie and I will eat something that feels Scottish to us (lamb and rumbledethumps), listen to Scottish folk and bagpipe music, and read a Robbie Burns poem or two. Because although my passport says I’m an Australian, in reality my identity is as a hybrid. And central to this is my identity in Christ. So truly I am a hybrid, and I am thankful that this Australia Day I will be able to more deeply embrace the reality of what it means to be me, a hybrid blessed to live in this place and time.

The Scriptures speak to my hybridity, and the reality of a life lived in a place and in a time. In Acts 17:26-28, I am reminded that I have a place and time (as does the country of Australia). And if I am to live as my Creator intended, then I can only do that in full acknowledgement of the truth of who and where I am. My time here is fleeting, and the goal of our journey is to be reconciled with my Creator and God.

Living in awareness that the beautiful place I live in and have come to treasure has been home to the Wurundjeri people, I am drawn to prayer for the surviving members of that community. I’m drawn to learn more, to make connections, and to seek their best in this time and place. If I can do a little towards this, then that would be a step towards a small celebration.

The words of Isaiah 61:1-2, read by Jesus in the synagogue (Luke 4:18-19), and the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20, remind me that my identity as a child of God requires that I also take on the ministry of reconciliation: to share the good news of reconciliation with God, and to allow myself to be transformed so as to live out reconciliation in my corner of the world. May God make us agents of reconciliation. And may he work in us all that is good and pleasing to him.

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