To commemorate 30 years since the first conference of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), principals, APREs and other Cairns Diocesan staff have spent time acknowledging the Spirit and work of the First Nation people throughout the Cairns Diocese.
What is NATSICC?
NATSICC was formed in Cairns in January 1989 and in 1992, it gained official recognition as the national representative and consultative body to the Catholic church on issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics.
With more than 130,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics in Australia, it is the youngest and fastest demographic in the Catholic Church today, according to NATSICC.
Painting from the first NATSICC conference
This painting was presented at the first NATSICC conference, held in Cairns in January 1989. Painted by Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr, it was a gift from her community, the people of the Nauiyu Nambiyu, Daly River, Northern Territory, expressing the theme of the conference: ‘On with the Dreaming in One Spirit’.
‘On with the Dreaming in One Spirit’ explained
“At the bottom of the painting is the fighting that happened when Aborigines and Europeans first clashed at the frontier. The Aborigines used boomerangs, spears, nulla nullas and woomerahs. Many people were killed on both sides and this is shown by the Aboriginal graves and the white dots below them. The line between the dead Aborigines and Europeans shows that the people were divided and did not understand each other.
But some people looked for reconciliation. The white wave of smoke from the smoke ceremony goes across the painting and shows the end of battle and payback. Forgiving each other, we move on from the past being healed and reconciled.
We start again, coming together, going in the same direction shown by the black diagonal line. This happens in the ordinary event of life when Aborigines and European live together, like when children are at school together or when white Australians work on Aboriginal communities. People come together as equals but sometimes the whites still want to dominate. These different relationships are shown by the black and white dots under the diagonal line. Being equal and walking together, we follow the tracks to the line of new direction.
The big circle is Jesus whose cross is in the circle, overcoming the evil of the serpent. Between the circle and the smoke from the ceremony is the small flame of the Holy Spirit which blows in the wind and gives us strength.
The circle of light breaks into the painting showing that Jesus lights up our darkness through his dying and rising. His light shows us the path to follow together.
The creek flowing around the circle and the hands carry the water of baptism which unites us with Jesus in his death and resurrection. This water flows through our land and our lives. We can now live in peace, holding hands. Aborigines have much to give as well as receive, much to say as well as hear. So the Aboriginal hands can lead, showing others the way and teaching the real history of this land. Together, all Australians can go forward sharing the dreaming in one Spirit.” Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr