By Caroline Smith
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people wanting to know more about Indigenous spirituality have been given the opportunity to do so through a series of recent workshops and events in Perth.
Hosted jointly by the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (ACM) and Centre for Faith Enrichment (CFE), the most recent workshop on 13 August at Embleton Parish brought 30 people together for a Mass, shared lunch and a talk by Noongar elder Dr Noel Nannup about the Aboriginal worldview and how it impacted on issues of spirituality.
ACM Director Vicky Burrows said this year was the first time the agency had held specific events to explore Indigenous spirituality and its relevance to contemporary issues.
“We haven’t done anything like this before, but the CFE has had many request over the years to explore and understand more about Aboriginal spirituality, so this partnership seemed like an ideal opportunity,” she said.
“This workshop was the third in a series hosted jointly with them: the first one was a general Aboriginal cultural immersion, and the second was a liturgy workshop to look at ways to acknowledge Aboriginal culture within the liturgy, and to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday.”
Reflecting on the workshop on 13 August, Ms Burrows said attendees were likely to benefit from learning more about traditional approaches to Indigenous spirituality.
“This day was very beneficial for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike: for non-Aboriginal people it opened up an understanding of an Aboriginal worldview, a non-material vision, a vision of interconnectedness with all life,” she said.
“For some Aboriginal people it helped to put experiences and understandings into perspective.”
She added that it was essential for the Catholic Church to maintain dialogue with Aboriginal communities around spiritual and other issues, pointing to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, which acknowledges these communities as environmental custodians.
“We want people to appreciate the rich culture and spirituality of Aboriginal people and to recognise that God has been walking alongside Aboriginal people for thousands of years, speaking to them through the land, culture and teachings,” Ms Burrows said.
“Often in our past we have demonised Aboriginal systems of knowledge and spirituality without recognising that there are wonderful synergies between our Catholic faith and Aboriginal spirituality.
“Aboriginal people approach their Christianity as Aboriginal people, grounded in their culture and the Gospel brings new life and hope to the bigger story.”
Looking ahead, she said that ACM would host another workshop on 21 October at the Newman Siena Centre in Doubleview (starting at 10am), which would address some of the practical ways that parishes and people might engage with the Aboriginal community, and potential journeys of reconciliation and Aboriginal ministry.
This will be followed on 5 November by an on-country tour to Kings Park, which will include a Mass and lunch.
For more information on either of these events, contact ACM on 9328 7529, or register at www.cfe.org.au.