Dear Inner Circle,

Over summer I wrestled with Stan Grant’s book Australia Day. I recommend it to you all. Even though I don’t share all of his views, I deeply respect the man. If you think there is a simple way to deal with January 26th, then it is essential reading for you. In his book, he describes the boats arriving at Kurnell through ‘the view from the ship and the view from the shore’ as both perspectives are alive within his body. Looking from the ship through the lens of the shore invites new vision and opens fresh possibilities for relationship and dialogue in our society that is all too quickly retreating behind the battle lines drawn by identity politics. We are better than that, and he challenges us to be so.

The only way we can avoid walking away from each other is to walk together. We are proud that the 1965 Freedom Rides left from the doorstep of the Wayside Chapel our building, at a time before the 1967 Referendum, when people of Aboriginal descent were not counted in our national census and were not yet recognised under Commonwealth laws to receive basic rights like old-age pensions and maternity allowances. Wayside played a small but significant role in supporting our Aboriginal brothers and sisters, as well as their leaders to campaign for their rights to be recognised.

We are proud of our Mob Space at Wayside. It is a place of welcoming, culture and safety for our Aboriginal community. It was established and is run by staff for whom cultural obligation, knowledge and sensitivity gets no rostered day off. Last week, two new women were added to the team and together I have no doubt they will continue to have a great impact in the lives of our visitors. The work they do deserves our special thanks. There are days where from the moment they open the doors to the moment they close, they support people who have faced trauma, disconnection and challenges to survive. Amongst this, there is hope and celebration. They dream of being able to do more and are now planning to run a Women’s Group to complement their Men’s Group, with a focus on mental health, suicide prevention and cultural connection. They are our unsung heroes, who I can guarantee are embarrassed that I am writing about them, at all such is their humility. We have a lot to learn about kinship and connection from our First Peoples.

School is back, and if you have managed to forget, I am sure that your social media feed is clogged with “first day back” images. I fear that we are making the price of education too high for the poor. We will pay a price for making the pathway out of poverty inaccessible to those who need it the most. I’m getting requests for assistance with back to school essentials. Thankfully, we have a few angels who have been able to help us get these kids back to school through the provision of books and uniforms. I’ve seen parents go to extreme lengths to get their kids to school. Once I was asked to give a mum a lift to their cousin’s house on the first day of school. There was a ‘no uniform, no attendance’ policy at her child’s school. I got a little suspicious when she asked me to drive to an unfamiliar affluent neighbourhood and then instructed me to slow down the car as she scanned front doorsteps. “This’ll do, pull over, but keep the car running” she ordered, and I tend to do as I’m told. I idled next to a house with lots of shoes out front, she grabbed a black pair, ran to the car and yelled “Gun it!” That morning I became an unintentional accessory to education. I wouldn’t mind that as an epitaph.

Of course, we don’t condone stealing. But this cheeky story from 15 years ago highlights the harsh reality of a mother’s desperation and the importance she placed on her child’s education. We thank you all for the many ways you make it possible for us to help other people who are in desperate circumstances.

We also thank you for being a part of this Inner Circle,

Jon

Jon Owen
Pastor & CEO
Wayside Chapel

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