‘Prophets nurture and evoke a new way of thinking. They give us images and words which subvert our system and tell us that we haven’t seen the whole picture yet. Prophets are not just concerned about social change for the sake of social change. They are concerned above all with transformation and freedom of the heart, and then out of that free heart, the prophet says, “Listen.” The prophet creates a new, freeing consciousness which allows us to hear the divine word and in the midst of that freedom, the prophets plant a promise, an alternative and new vision.’

These words, by Franciscan Richard Rohr, seem to be calling us to a prophetic vison for our country, however, sadly this opportunity might not be realised.

This article was also published on Pearls and Irritations

Pain and deeply renewed trauma, due to unabated bigotry, racism and prejudice in our contemporary society, has been occurring since the announcement of the referendum to give our First Nation Peoples a Voice to Parliament. Opposition leader Peter Dutton and his obsequious right-wing admirers have pressed firmly on the fear buttons to engage all who have swallowed the dis-information that alleges that their privileged lifestyles could be threatened. Our mining magnates, out of self-interest lead the brigade of fear.

I would like to bring this disturbing and unbridled result of such untruths, broadcast so widely, right back down to what is happening in our local communities here on the far-south coast of New South Wales.

In my work over the past forty years as a social worker, I have worked closely with the Indigenous community in both the Snowy Mountains area and now here on the coastal area near Narooma, I am confronted with the vastly increased trauma being expressed by our local Aboriginal community as a result of the blatant and overt racism of some non-indigenous members of our society.

A good friend of mine Sally, contacted me in considerable distress at having first-hand witnessed the pain being experienced by our Aboriginal community at this time as we head to the referendum next Saturday. Sally has been working tirelessly with other inspiring members of our local community to provide better understanding of what the Voice Referendum is seeking to offer us all as Australians.

These intelligent and compassionate people have come to have a close and deep relationship with the local Aboriginal people in this area and something has become exceedingly apparent. It seems that permission has been given for non-factual statements and uncontrolled hatred and racism to be spread widely. We see how quickly such abusive and overt racism has drained our non-indigenous people’s pride in our country. This has only been a brief moment in time for us non-indigenous folk so let us consider what living with this type of hatred and racism from your birth does to your spirit, hopes, desires and dreams.

Sally spoke of a much respected Aboriginal elder in our community, whose name I won’t share here, – I will call him Tom, who came into the local markets over the weekend.

“He seemed to be trembling and was really upset and concerned for his community and his own family members. Tom spoke of seeing people turn away from him when he approached. These are people that Tom thought were his friends. His fears at this extreme racist abuse that has caused him to consider investigating security measures for his family. Tom spoke of the abusive comments that have appeared on his social media page which has caused him to block these people whom he had regarded as friends.”

Another Aboriginal woman told Sally that she had been spat upon by someone in the street.

When I was assisting at our local pre-poll voting centre the other day one inauspicious character drew his vehicle almost to a stop to shout out, “keep Australia white – vote NO”.

One does wonder where this man has been hiding out that his education and life experience had not enabled him a better understanding of our country’s history or an appreciation of our multi-cultural society today. Our diverse and rich culture, which today is celebrated by those who can understand the rich gifts that diversity brings, offers us so much as a nation.

There are many caring and compassionate Australians out there who are about to place their vote for the Referendum. These people aren’t the ones who are spreading this pain for our Indigenous friends and community members. They aren’t loud and abusive. It is this aspect of our culture that holds me in hope that, even though this referendum could fail, that a much stronger bridge has now been crossed in our relationships with our First Nation community.

People now feel greater pride for the endurance of our land’s first custodians who have shown their enduring resilience, their innate compassion and generosity.

We have now heard their stories that have been hidden, very likely to cover up our shame at our past history, and these stories will continue to be told. It is in listening that we learn and find our hearts and our voices to stand against hatred and racism.

Such a prophetic and gracious invitation was extended to us all in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I hope and pray that our nation’s better angels can lead us to higher values and deeper compassion.

About the writer:

Laurel Lloyd-Jones (LFSF) is:

  • a published author
  • Social Worker
  • Executive Director of Elm Grove Sanctuary Trust – a charity that has worked extensively with Aboriginal people over the past 40 years.