The Archdiocese of Brisbane has officially launched its Reconciliation Action Plan, aimed at building strong relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The inaugural Innovate RAP is the result of four years planning and consultation by the Reconciliation Working Group, a group of 12 which included six first nations members.
It comes with official endorsement from Reconciliation Australia’s CEO Karen Mundine and the support of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Councils’ Queensland Representative Mr David Miller.
The RAP was celebrated with a Mass at the Cathedral of St Stephen followed by a Launch event in the Hanly Room on Tuesday 17 November.
Preceding the Mass local first nations representatives provided a Welcome to Country, as well as performing a Corroboree and Smoking Ceremony in the liturgical space outside the Francis Rush Centre.
In a foreword included in the RAP document Archbishop Mark Coleridge wrote of a sense of urgency about actioning its strategies, which would be a crucial part of the local church’s journey in South-East Queensland.
“I commend this Reconciliation Action Plan to every parish, community and agency of the Archdiocese of Brisbane,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“The RAP will provide important opportunities to renew and deepen relations between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples and those of other heritages.
“Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the implementation of this plan will lead communities on a new path of trust and respect.
“My ardent hope and prayer is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be encouraged, empowered and supported in every way, so that the entire People of God will be enriched by the gifts which they alone can bring,” he said.
The comprehensive document is segmented into categories of ‘Relationships’, ‘Respect’, ‘Opportunities’ and ‘Governance’, and underpinned by 20 action items all linked to timelines and deliverables.
Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine also sent a video message of congratulations to the Archdiocese for joining the growing number of RAP community members.
“We encourage the Archdiocese to embrace this journey with open hearts and minds, to grow from the challenges, and to build on its successes,” Ms Mundine said.
“As the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation reminded the nation in its final report: ‘Reconciliation is hard work—it’s a long, winding and corrugated road, not a broad, paved highway. Determination and effort at all levels of government and in all sections of the community will be essential to make reconciliation a reality.’
“On behalf of Reconciliation Australia, I commend the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane on its first RAP, and look forward to following its ongoing reconciliation journey,” she said.
The RAP has been signed off by the five Archdiocesan executive directors who work directly under Archbishop Coleridge in areas such as education, parish and social services.
They acknowledged it had implications from the way employees went about their everyday work, the implementation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Learning strategy, the recruitment and retention of first nation’s peoples and to a revision of preferred suppliers, but all welcomed the cultural change the RAP would facilitate.
Connections between First Nations people and the Catholic Church in South East Queensland first occurred in 1843, when a team of Passionist Fathers settled on Stradbroke Island and lived alongside the Quandamooka people.
Although relations were cordial, the bulk of the Passionist priests withdrew back to Sydney in 1846 deeming their ministry a failure, a view not shared by the Quandamooka.
A small community of Catholic indigenous peoples remains on the island, being ministered to by Cleveland Parish.
Encouragingly Cleveland is one of five Archdiocesan parishes – Beenleigh, Bracken Ridge, Inala and Zillmere are the others – who will serve as pilot parishes for the roll out of the RAP.
Working closely with Evangelisation Brisbane, who will direct and monitor the progress and reporting of the RAP, the five parishes will liaise with EB RAP Project Officer Cynthia Rowan in bedding down actions that hopefully will serve as the roadmap for wider implementation.
Archbishop Coleridge’s Homily from the Mass can be viewed here
The full Mass for the Launch of the RAP can be viewed here