The embrace with the aborigines

Also in the wake of the testimony experienced personally by Pope Francis in Canada, among the First Nations, the first step of the small representative of Athletica Vaticana in Sydney, for the World Cycling Championships, Friday 23 September will be the meeting with the First Australians, the aborigines who are starting a program with Caritas Australia. Significantly, the apostolic nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, will accompany “the Pope’s cyclists” to the Kinchela Boys Home.

The style of Athletica Vaticana always provides – at the World Cup as in the “apparently” smaller and more peripheral sporting event – a concrete solidarity experience of attention to the poorest and most fragile people. In collaboration with local ecclesial and social realities. Otherwise a Vatican sports association would not make sense.

In collaboration, therefore, with Caritas Australia and the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, the cyclists of Athletica Vaticana will listen to the stories of the First Australians, embracing their path of hope. “Our priority is to listen, understand and collaborate,” explains Christine Rhazi, associate director First Australians of Caritas Australia and woman of Yamatji Widi origin from Geraldton, Western Australia.

«Our country – says Christine – has a history of decisions made” on behalf “of the First Australians rather than” with “them. This means that we have found ourselves with many policies that do not work or that cause further trauma to culture and communities ”. This is why Caritas Australia “works closely with the Aboriginal and island populations of the Torres Strait and with organizations led by the First Australians to support programs that focus on ‘intergenerational healing’, strengthening cultural identity and spirituality, on livelihood opportunities and advocacy ”.

In particular, the Kinchela Boys Home was a “house” managed by the government of New South Wales from 1924 to 1970 precisely to house the aboriginal boys forcibly removed from their families as part of the policies that created the so-called “generations. stolen “.

The Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, founded in 2002, collaborates today with Caritas Australia “to take care of the social and emotional well-being of survivors and their families and to support the healing of traumas that still negatively affect their lives today” explain those responsible. Precisely «through the offer of healing programs, the survivors of the ‘stolen generations’ and their descendants are encouraged to take control of their own lives and face intergenerational trauma together».

The survivors themselves are the protagonists of this experience, aiming “to encourage healthy models of peer support that allow greater social inclusion in the life of the community”. In essence, the leaders of Caritas Australia explain, “the goal is to support Aborigines who have suffered in the past, their families and communities in developing healing programs to restore and rebuild their identity, dignity and integrity”.

For his part, Michael “Widdy” Welsh, president of the association, does not resort to mincing words: «The truth about this earth must be told. It must be told for everyone. Not only for the children who were taken away by force, but also for the greatest pain that is not mentioned ». Because “we were rejected by the non-natives when they took us away, and then by the natives when we returned home: we are still waiting to be identified with our true heritage of the land of our ancestors.”

According to Caritas Australia “the aborigines and the inhabitants of the Torres Strait islands are in a worse situation than other Australians with regard to almost all parameters of social life”. This is why we must “invest more in our First Australian communities and bridge the social divide”. For Caritas, moreover, “truth is fundamental for reconciliation because, as we have seen with the program with the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation association, it promotes healing, but must also be supported by strong and solid policies and by the awareness that it is better for the First Australians to make the decisions: no more top-down decisions as we have seen in the past ». In short, “the time has come to give them the power to make decisions that affect their lives.”

The embrace with the aborigines – L’Osservatore Romano