Guest Blog: Reverend Lindsay McDowell
I write in support of reform of the Australian Constitution as an individual who has had more than sixty years of direct and personal interaction with the First Peoples of this land. Numbered among them are some of my most treasured friends. I also write as a member of an Australia wide, grass roots people’s movement – a movement that for almost twenty years has been developed and led by first and later Australians working together toward a common aim – to hold A National Act of Recognition of the First Peoples of Australia at Botany Bay.
I have a strong conviction that reform of the Australian Constitution is imperative. This conclusion is based on the existing Constitution having been premised on the almost total exclusion of the First Peoples who have lived in this land for thousands of years. This has been a profound injustice, and an ongoing position that is untenable. The time has come when the voice of the First Peoples of this country must be heard. Given their long and ancient history in this land, their rightful place that stems from that, and the absence of that being recognized in our Constitution, it is imperative that the Australian people address it. Enshrining this recognition in the Australian Constitution is, in my view, the road we need to travel. To my mind, the importance of this cannot be over stated.
I am of equally strong conviction that any reform must be of real substance. Therefore, we need to embrace any opportunity to help us get this right. It appears that all people most engaged in the constitutional reform process agree that education is an essential ingredient in navigating a way forward. Indeed, some of our most well - known First Peoples are reported to have called for greater education for the wider Australian public. Our Recognition National Leadership agrees with this. Over the years we have noticed a number of fundamentals we believe are factual, and evident to anyone who looks. For example, after 246 years of our shared history (dated since James Cook in 1770) it is clear to us:
A profound injustice has been imposed on the First Peoples in their own lands
A deep divide remains between descendants of those who were here and those who came
It is apparent to everyone the reconciliation debate never ends. It ebbs and flows, it may from time to time go quiet…but it is never resolved. Sooner or later it comes roaring back!
After almost two and a half centuries we cannot afford to continue as we are. To my mind, only the men and women of Australia can break this cycle. This means all of us must take action to address more than just the symptoms of our condition. We must address root causes as well. The earliest records in existence, the HM Bark Endeavour Journals, reveal that earliest root causes were the original forced entry into community life of the people in this country, and taking possession of lands known to be already inhabited
I and many others believe it logical – and essential – that we deal with “the root and not just the fruit” of our condition. When considering the question of education, it appears to us that the most effective starting point has to be the original source documents. To have a deeper understanding of each other we need to place these earliest of records under public scrutiny, and begin to follow the story of our shared history from that point. I suggest that is a logical education plan.
I believe all who are seriously engaged in the Recognition process must continue to work in close collaboration with each other if we are to empower the Australian people to deliver constitutional reform of real substance.
It was into this seedbed that the concept of A National Act of Recognition of the First Peoples of Australia was born. Now commonly known as Recognition at Botany Bay, this quest for justice and healing of our wounded land – and its people – is now a nation wide grass roots people’s movement.
The Reverend Lindsay McDowell became the founder of Southern Cross Ministries Australia Incorporated some 20 years ago. It is an interdenominational ministry, established for the purpose of finding new and innovative ways to genuinely help the broken people of our world to more deeply connect with each other, and with God.