Last night I attended a seminar organised by Reconciliation for Western Sydney, on “Aboriginal Justice, Language Restoration, and Spirituality”, at Parramatta, Western Sydney, Australia. We heard sacred songs sung in Dharug Aboriginal language by Jacinta Tobin, a Darug Elder who is a descendant of Yarramundi, a chieftain of the Boorooberongal clan of the Richmond NSW area., and a Christian. Her presentation was followed up by Pastor Ray Minniecon from Redfern, who spoke about Australian indigenous spirituality and its connection to singing.
The enthusiastic audience, who braved freezing weather to attend, were delighted by Jacinta’s songs, and appreciative of Pastor Ray’s careful, patient explanations of complex indigenous spiritual concepts such as skin, songlines, and clan relationship laws. Jacinta has recorded three CDs of her Darug songs, and they will soon be available for online purchase.
Jacinta and Ray, and many Australian Aboriginal people, express their Christian faith in complete consonance with their indigenous identity and song. So why don’t Australian churches include more Australian Aboriginal music and ceremony in their parish worship? There’s plenty of brilliant indigenous church repertoire, and many great indigenous church musicians, out there, but most Australian parish church communities do not include and welcome Australian indigenous church musicians sufficiently, or include sufficient Australian indigenous church music in their worship repertoire.
Maybe someone at the upcoming NSW Sacred Music Festival can enlighten me as to the reasons for this shameful situation. Including indigenous church music in church worship is a proven method of reversing racism and educating non-indigenous people, but none of my church music friends / colleagues seem to care a hoot about this issue. I’m not at all happy to settle for the unspoken / unwritten, racist policy of imposing church music apartheid, repertoire censorship and worship segregation on Australian Aboriginal Christians. An optional annual token Sorry Day or NAIDOC service is simply not enough. All cultures and genres of immigrant music have found prominence and supporters in Australian church worship, so why is Australian indigenous church music so firmly excluded?