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Brisbane archdiocese launches Reconciliation Action Plan after three years in the making

Joyful day: Artist Shara Delaney, who designed the artwork for the Reconciliation Action Plan, and Evangelisation Brisbane Reconciliation Action Plan project manager Cynthia Rowan at the RAP launch Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral on November 17.

BRISBANE archdiocese has launched an historic Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) that aims to correct “past injustices” by promoting new and stronger relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Those injustices remain a running sore at the heart of the nation,” Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said, introducing the plan after an Aboriginal corroboree and smoking ceremony performed outside the city’s St Stephen’s Cathedral on November 17.

The Brisbane RAP sets specific targets for creating more Indigenous jobs, and for adopting Indigenous cultural perspectives in the daily activities of parishes, Church agencies and schools.

“This RAP is the fruit of deep listening to Indigenous peoples … and if we can really learn from what we hear there is a future for Australia as a united people,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

Developing the plan has taken more than three years of consultation.

It is already being piloted in several parishes, and is considered a model document that could be adapted and used by Catholic agencies, schools and parishes across Australia.

“It is a time to speak up and have a voice within the Church,” Indigenous elder and co-chair of the Reconciliation Reference Group David Miller said.

“It is a time for recognising and acknowledging the valuable contribution that we have made to the life of the Church. It is a time to address past wrong-doings and injustices suffered by many of our peoples.

“It is time to address racism and prejudice in our society. And it is a time to act.”

The RAP commits the Brisbane archdiocese to carry out cultural awareness training for employees and parishes within the next year.

This could be done in workshops or through cultural immersion.

Within two years, all parishes and agencies will be encouraged to include Welcome to Country or Acknowledgement of Country where appropriate at public events and major liturgies.

And all parishes and agencies will be encouraged to install Acknowledgment plaques in consultation with Traditional Owner groups.

There will also be a review of all brochures, pamphlets and posters promoting archdiocesan agency services to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture where possible.

Momentous: Jody Jorgensen and David Miller at the RAP launch.

More than 700,000 Catholics live in the Archdiocese of Brisbane, and about 15,000 people identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders.

The archdiocese employs 16,140 people.

Only 75 identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people – just 0.5 per cent of the overall workforce.

The RAP commits to double Indigenous employment within the next two years.

There will also be a review of procurement policies and procedures to identify barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses supplying goods and services to archdiocesan agencies.

Under the RAP, Brisbane Catholics would also aim to work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders including Link-Up Queensland, Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation Elders and Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders in Council, Cherbourg Elders, Inala Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, Brisbane Northside Elders Group and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups.

Executive directors of Brisbane’s Catholic agencies and schools signed the RAP document that commits to “doing what we can to heal the wounds of the past and taking action in a spirit of mercy, love, justice, truth telling and peace”.

“We echo the words of Pope John Paul II who said in his address to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in Alice Springs in 1986, ‘(W)e long for the day when we are fully the Church that Jesus wants us to be, a Church where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make their contribution to her life, and that contribution is joyfully received by others’,” the document reads.

“It means making changes across our organisation in many areas from the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees to the revision of preferred suppliers.

“This document enables the kind of cultural change that empowers and supports reconciliation across the archdiocese.”

Archbishop Coleridge said it was important to set modest targets at first and go “step by step together” in achieving progress.

“Sometimes in the past targets and goals have been set that have been over-ambitious and they’re a recipe for failure,” he said.

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