Last Saturday night we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Jesuit Social Services at their annual dinner. Senator Pat Dodson was our guest speaker and Archie Roach our guest performer.
As I rose to acknowledge our guests I was reminded of an old Kukatja saying: marlakarti nyawa, kurranyu nyininpa: look back in order to go forward. It is one of those paradoxical sayings that challenge the logic that life is all about leaving the past and moving on.
This ancient wisdom invites us to see our world with new eyes that draw on the light of our past.
Both Pat Dodson and Archie Roach reminded us of our early beginnings as a nation, the ways in which colonisation began and how first relationships were forged and have continued.
In Archie’s song ‘Took the Children Away’ we can hear and feel something of that cost when key family relationships were broken. And we can continue to see something of that burden that is carried by many today.
The increasing rate of Aboriginal imprisonment is but one example of a growing gap in our nation with tragic consequences for us all.
Pat Dodson and Archie Roach are modern Australian poets but also prophets. They speak to the truth of who we are as a nation and what we have become and, like those ancient Old Testament prophets of old, are not afraid to call us forward, to become something better.
They ask us to seek new ways of living as a nation, such as healing the fractured lives of young people in detention, restoring them to a better place within their families and our communities.
During this dinner, the CEO of Jesuit Social Services, Julie Edwards, announced that the organisation was committing itself to something new, an initiative building on its past 40 years of experience: The Men’s Project.
It will include men who have often been themselves victims of violence as children, and whose frustration and anger finds violent expression in their families and elsewhere. The project will help them find a better way.
Along with Fr General, who sent a special videoed message, I support this initiative of Jesuit Social Services. We know there is much violence in the world, much of it perpetrated by men. We don’t have to look beyond our shores to see the effects of such violence on families, women and children.
At the same time, there are many women and men working to make a difference, seeking to restore that balance for all, bringing out the best in men.
I, and I am sure many others in our Australian society, look forward to this initiative of Jesuit Social Services, and will want to support it. We can see in family violence the broken world from which we have come and the healed selves we are called to be: marlakarti nyawa, kurranyu nyininpa.