An honest approach to Australia Day

The Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, The Right Revd Dr Richard Condie, recognises the importance of having Australia Day as a day to celebrate, acknowledge and give thanks for our great nation, but calls for lament on January 26 for the darker parts of our history.

“This date celebrates an imperialist British government triumphantly annexing another part of the world under their control,” said Bishop Condie. “This date also marks the beginning of occupation and dispossession of Aboriginal peoples across this land.”

“Through a biblical lens we can see many untruths that have been perpetuated over time,” he said. “The bible in Acts 17 says that God set the nations in their historic and physical context. It was God who gave 60,000 years of history to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people. It was God who apportioned the territory of these islands to the 300 nations that lived here prior to 1788,” said Bishop Condie.

“The truth on the lips of the Apostle Paul exposes the untruth that the great southland was terra nullius. It was actually terra populus, by the Lord’s hand. It exposes the untruth that the “Crown” could appropriate land and dole it out to others, as if it were theirs to give.”

Bishop Condie said, “The Aboriginal peoples of Australia have always been known and loved by God, created in his image to reflect his glory in the world. As such they should have been treated with honour and respect and dignity. But it is well known that this was not what happened. Here in Tasmania terrible atrocities occurred, as land was stolen from its rightful owners to make way for the grazing of sheep.”

In addressing how Christians should respond to Australia Day on January 26, Bishop Condie suggests that at the very least the day should be marked by lament and mourning, and confession and repentance. He advocates that Christians should embrace the bible’s long tradition of corporate and historic confession of sin.

“Human beings get things wrong all the time,” said Bishop Condie “and the appropriate response is repentance. You and I have benefited from this great wrong of January 26, 1788. We continue to benefit from it while Aboriginal peoples still live with its impact.”

“We have ignored the facts. We have kept silent about this part of our history, and it has become a festering wound in our nation,” said Bishop Condie.

“January 26 should be a day of corporate lament, a day to say sorry, a day to make restitution, a day to acknowledge the past, a day to tell the truth about our dark history, a day to confess our corporate and historic sin.”

“And, we Christians should be at the forefront of that reconciling work.”

In closing, Bishop Condie reflected on an Old Testament reading encouraging Christians to remember the Lord, to ask for his mercy to bring our nation back to him.

Bishop Condie’s sermon from 26 January 2020 can be heard here. It is titled: What do you do with Australia Day?

Published: 26 January 2020