Struggle and healing: National Sorry Day
An interview with Ray Minniecon
Ray Minniecon is an Aboriginal pastor. He is a descendant of the Kabi Kabi nation and the Gurang Gurang nation of South-East Queensland. He is also a descendant of the South Sea Islander people, with connections to the people of Ambrym Island. He is married to Sharon and they live in Glebe, in Sydney. Together, Ray and Sharon have had an extensive ministry serving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over many years. As we mark National Sorry Day, Ray spoke with ADM about his work with the Stolen Generations …
Can you tell us about the focus of your current ministry work?
The short answer is, I’m trying to follow the footsteps of Jesus in the community. There’s so many challenges there and I just love the way that Jesus just did it: he got out there in the streets, in the highways and byways, amongst people in the communities. I’m just trying to do what Jesus did.
This could be ministering to a family that has lost loved ones – that takes a lot of my time and energy. It might mean helping people connect to the services they need at a certain time. It means a lot of praying with people. And that’s just this week!
Then there’s ministry with different denominations, including Anglicans, to help them come to grips with Aboriginal ministry and my work in building the capacity of Aboriginal Christian organisations to meet the huge challenges that we face as Aboriginal pastors. And also being at the cutting edge of helping the Stolen Generations with the many, many serious challenges that they face, both personally and collectively. Or you might find me helping out with whatever needs to be done at our local Aboriginal school, Gawura, as well working on the broader challenges we face with our young people.
You work with people from the Stolen Generations, particularly those who were in the Bomaderry Children’s Home and the Kinchela Boys’ Home. Could you share what you do and what that experience is like for you?
I’ve worked amongst Stolen Generations nearly my entire ministry – almost the last 40 years. Here in NSW, I started the Kinchela Boys’ Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC) with the men who were placed in the home. It took 13 years to get that established, registered and funded to go and to grow. KBHAC has helped the men to take control of their own future for the first time in their lives, helping not only them, but also their families. The same with the Bomaderry Children’s Home.
Even though they’re all people from the Stolen Generations, each one has unique experiences and unique problems according to the way they were treated in those specific homes. It’s been, for me, the greatest joy of my life to work with such incredible people in their challenges and their struggles. When I see them have their own voice, find their own way forward, do their own thing in terms of their own ways of healing, it gives me great satisfaction and joy.
What difference does National Sorry Day make for people from the Stolen Generations?
First and foremost, it ensures we remember the ‘Bringing them Home’ report and the national apology, made by Kevin Rudd. This day reminds our nation that these important events took place. And Sorry Day continues to challenge us because we can see that the issue has not gone away. Children are still being removed from their homes, and this is a growing issue around the country. We need to start looking at how we can rebuild families and homes.
How has your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus influenced your work with the Stolen Generations?
It’s simply fundamental. I’m just trying to do what Jesus would do. I would not be able to do what I’m doing if it wasn’t for the Lord’s help and the role of the Holy Spirit in my life.
What would you like non-Aboriginal Christians to know about Sorry Day and the Stolen Generations? Is there anything practical that Christians could do as part of National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week?
It would be good to see the church get a little bit more fair dinkum around it. The church can insulate itself from this kind of pain and struggle. And yet the church should be the very first place that someone from the Stolen Generations can seek help (within the congregation of the local church), where they can find fellowship. The church is a fair distance from this, and I’d like to see it playing an active role in closing the gap between the nation and the pain and the struggles of my people.
Come and support National Sorry Day events. Listen to the stories and hear what the Lord is saying to you, personally, in terms of what you can do. There could be a whole host of things you might do as a result, and I wouldn’t want to pre-empt anything that might come from an interaction with one of our members of the Stolen Generations.
To find out more about National Sorry Day, visit www.commongrace.org.au/may_26_national_sorry_day
To find out more about the Kinchela Boys’ Home Aboriginal Corporation, visit www.kinchelaboyshome.org.au