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First Peoples connections too strong to sever

By Alison Overeem

We have much to reflect on in how we reconnect, and re-emerge from COVID restrictions.

But, before we reflect on the pathway out of the fog of COVID-19, we know this time has given us a gift, a call to rebirth, re-energise and to continue the struggle for justice as the Tasmanian First Peoples, beating as the takila (heart) of the Uniting Church.

Isolated, disconnected and unable to gather and mourn, as we need to for healing, this period reminds us of the years of having all this taken from us. It brings a new thirst for justice, for truth- telling, for Indigenous theology and spirituality that tells us that Aboriginal Jesus is a way of knowing and being.

Country is our gathering space, our sacred space, our healing space. Connection to it reminds us who we are as First Peoples – calls us to the Creator Spirit as our energy and compass, in these challenging times.

Ministry for us, holistic ministry, is as we have always been called to see it, feel it and hear it. In this time it is even more so, the weaving of our stories to connect others to the stories that sit on, and with, country – to connect to the ever-present Creator Spirit, not just in a building, but in our spiritual connection to land, story and each other.

We also know that struggle and survival is the story for First Peoples, so that innate wisdom gives us the courage and vision to look beyond and connect in ways beyond our expectations.The challenges, scars and trauma from the isolation of COVID-19 are yet to be fully openly seen and heard.

We need to be ready, but as those challenges arise, we know the gift of our stories, and our shared learning, will continue to be the faith we build our community centre, Leprena, around and for all of UAICC Tasmania and beyond.

We will need to hold our Leprena mob’s hands and hearts softly in this new journey, where our safe gathering space became an empty space, but we still stayed connected.

We are more than a building, and this sense has spoken loudly to us. We are the interwoven connections of time, place and space. As we develop more resources, we are reminded we are a living resource and gift to all. This has affirmed that.

In the perceived COVID-19 darkness, the guiding light of UAICC Tasmania no longer flickers, it glows!

That glow is the resilience of a team’s determination to shine. Our people will need us more and us them.

Alison Overeem is centre manager at Leprena, home of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress in Glenorchy, Tasmania.

This article originally appeared in the June edition of Crosslight. To read the full magazine, click here.

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