Being part of the solution

Recently the Federal Government launched the Indigenous Economic Development Strategy 2011-2018, a blueprint to help underpin economic development among Aboriginal people in regional and remote Australia. Once again Federal government policy has divided opinion among Aboriginal people in country and urban settings as to how the seemingly intractable problems of education, health, employment should be addressed.

The Government undertook extensive consultation with community leaders, visiting towns and outstations to canvas opinion. Many people, particularly community elders, were supportive of the continuation of the policies of night patrols, compulsory income management and withdrawal of benefits in the face of school truancy. Other commitments have been made in the announcement, which looks like a re-worked version of ‘Closing the Gap’ but with welcome emphasis on employment, economic and housing outcomes.

These are difficult issues on which to pass judgment while sitting in a comfortable office in Sydney. The problems of remote northern Australia feel like another world away and indeed the climate, living conditions, vast distances and lack of services would be intolerable and inconceivable to most East Coast Australians. The issues are indeed serious, particularly for children, health outcomes and life expectancy.

We may not have all the answers, but churches there and the Christian community of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are part of the solution. Churches have had a lot of bad press in their relations with Aboriginal people in the past, and in part rightly so. But things have changed and many Aboriginal Christians are working hard to proclaim Christ in their communities and help bring a degree of order to life in remote Australia.

Photo: Children studying the Bible, Yangbala Kemp (Youth Camp), Ngukurr, NT

The recent Sydney Synod heard a little of this work both in Arnhem Land and Sydney. Importantly, a leaflet was launched outlining ‘Six Ways to support the Aboriginal Church in Sydney and Arnhem Land’. Sponsored by Anglican Deaconess Ministries and the Sydney Anglican Indigenous People’s Ministry Committee, these ideas range from individual contributions to projects whole churches can support.

They are

1.       Prayer for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters who are faithfully ministering amid great difficulties.

2.       Support for Income-Generating Initiatives Some NT Aboriginal churches have started Opportunity Shops to raise ministry funds, reach out to the community and teach basic organisational skills to local people. Donations of clothing from Sydney can help kick-start a local ministry. If you would like to be part of contributing to an Op Shop ministry in the NT, contact Anglican Deaconess Ministries 

3.       Support Families at Bible College Families with pre-school children are often reluctant to leave them in communities while undertaking Bible and literacy training at Nungalinya College in Darwin. A new crèche is under construction at the College to cater for these families. The cost of caring for a child for the duration of a four-week course is $875. Contact the College directly 

4.       Educate Urban Aboriginal Children In Sydney, make a difference in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by assisting Gawura School, based at St Andrew’s Cathedral School. For $365, you can sponsor the school for a day. You can also help support school chaplaincy OR donate a lump sum to help create an annual scholarship for an Aboriginal child. Donations are tax deductible. Contact the Head of Marketing & Development, Vicki Fraser

5.       Fund ministry training in Sydney Raising up the next generation of Aboriginal leadership is a key challenge. You can help by assisting with MTS training stipends for young Aborigines, or by directly supporting the training initiatives of the Wollongong Regional Council or Sydney Anglican Indigenous People’s Ministry Committee (SAIPMC) or MTS.

6.       Buy children’s accessible English Bibles for use by churches and schools in remote NT communities Help churches put the Word of God into the hands of NT Aboriginal children by supporting the purchase of children’s accessible English Bibles at $35 per copy. Kriol is spoken by Aboriginal communities across much of the Top End. The whole Bible is now in this language and each copy costs $40 each.  To donate, contact Phil Gerber, Anglican Diocese of the NT

It’s over to you!


Dr Karin Sowada is currently CEO of the Anglican Deaconess Ministries Ltd. She served as a Senator in the Commonwealth Parliament from 1991-93 and is a member of the Diocesan Social Issues Executive. Karin is also an archaeologist specialising in ancient Egypt.

Comments (2)

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  • Stephen Davis
    October 25, 11 - 1:29am
    Some good initiatives here, but the magic ingredient is getting the Aborigines to see that they need to put effort in as well, we all have talents but we also need to see that we can either use them for God's glory or bury them in the ground.
  • Philip Coller
    October 29, 11 - 10:02pm
    A missing ingredient is cultural training for (non- Aboriginal) people so they can gain an understanding from the Aboriginal perspective. It is too easy to say "they need to put the effort in". If you would like to hear from the Aboriginal perspective: