The Covenant between the Uniting Church and the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress

On July 10 1994, a covenant was signed by the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) and the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) National Assembly. The Covenanting Statement was read by then Uniting Church President, Dr Jill Tabart to the UAICC National Chairperson, pastor Bill Hollingsworth.

The statement recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were living on this land long before the church arrived and that the church had been part of a horrible history causing harm to people and culture. It also acknowledged that as the church was eager to spread the news of Jesus, it neglected to see the spirituality and wisdom of the First Peoples of Australia.

Bill then read a response to the Covenanting Statement from the Congress. It expressed thanks, acknowledging the struggles of their people and inviting the Uniting Church in Australia to enter into a new relationship which would help to heal the past and develop a way forward.

The covenant recognises that strengthening this relationship is not the responsibility of one or the other, but is an agreement that both the Uniting Church and Congress will work together to bring about justice and forgiveness.

In the wake of the Australian Government’s apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Congress has invited the Church to consider renewing the covenant and reawaken commitment to the covenant among Uniting Church members.

This covenant is available to read on the National Assembly website at http://www.assembly.uca.org.au/resources/covenanting/item/135-covenanting-statement-1994.

The journey of the covenant

In 2007, the Uniting Church Assembly published Building Partnerships: A guide to covenant renewal with Indigenous people throughout the Uniting Church in Australia. The booklet provides a resource for Uniting Church congregations and groups to consider the covenantal relationship in their governance and activities.

It states: “In choosing to enter a covenant relationship, the Congress and the Uniting Church have acknowledged that the way forward for building relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians is through equal partnership, no longer tied to colonial or paternalistic ideas or policies.”

To read more about Building Partnerships or to find out how you can order copies of the booklet, visit http://www.assembly.uca.org.au/resources/covenanting/item/140-building-partnerships.

To find out more about the covenanting journey in WA contact Beananging Kwuurt Institute, a Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress WA agency on 9350 9973 or email Rev Sealin Garlett, chairperson, at sealingarlett@bki.org.au or Neville Campbell at neville.campbell@bki.org.au