Aboriginal Christian Leaders speak to Chris about Black Lives Matter

After the June 6 weekend rallies of around 80,000 Australians in every capital city and some regional centres as well, Chris got to talk with some highly respected indigenous leaders who follow Jesus from the three east coast states, and South Australia.

See the story here: https://www.sightmagazine.com.au/features/16265-black-lives-matter-aboriginal-christian-leaders-respond-with-a-cry-from-the-heart

Marchers in Sydney on 6th June stop for a moment of silence for George Floyd in the U.S. and Australian, David Dungay, who died saying, “I can’t breathe,” when held down by law enforcers.

We’re Still Here

by Chris Gilbert

Aboriginal families who’ve lost loved ones in police custody led a massive Black Lives Matters March though a sunlit Sydney this past Saturday, June 6.  In a poignant pre-march hour of personal reflections, they spoke of the invisibility of what they’ve suffered, of 432 deaths in custody since 1991 and not a single police officer held accountable. It was at times tender and defiant as captured in one line, “Our land’s been stolen but we’re still here.” 

Between the addresses, the crowd chanted “No Justice, No Peace!”(Amos 5:24), adding “No racist police!” and “I can’t Breathe!” and “Black Lives matter!” Young, old and multi-ethnic they punched the air with a passion.

As the march took shape I waited on the Town Hall steps alongside a 70-year-old Dunghutti woman, Margaret Campbell, as she was interviewed by a New York Times reporter.  Afterwards, she told me she was optimistic despite being at many fruitless rallies for Aboriginal justice over the years. 

“This one is different,” she said, “There’s a nice spirit about it and people here who have never come out to support us before, lots of white faces in the crowd. It gives me hope that this time something will change.”

We looked out on a colourful rally, most people masked, holding banners worded from the witty to the Biblical to the profane, and covering three blocks on George Street.  NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Willing estimated 20,000 marched and he too spoke approvingly of the spirit of the event.

Marchers head off to Belmore Park, Sydney

Social distancing proved impossible, but there was a deeper tension. Fifteen minutes from the 3pm start, the Court of Appeal decided that the rally, at that point “unauthorised,” was now “authorised.” Palpable relief rippled through George Street and rally organisers didn’t hide their jubilation.  

Police adjusted with speed to a plan B of assisting the march and they remained on the edges of the event, unobtrusive to most of the crowd. 

Social distancing concerned some of his officers but,“While some people were spoken to, no formal police action was required,” Willing said. 

Banners from the Biblical to the Profane

The march inched along George, Bathurst and Castlereagh Streets then stopped briefly at 4:30pm while everyone knelt in tribute to George Floyd, who’s death at the hands of Minnesota police in the U.S. began worldwide protests for racial justice.  Arriving at Belmore Park, the crowd dispersed just after 5pm. 

4:30pm Marchers stopped and knelt in solidarity with the Floyd family and the 432 families who lost a loved one in police custody since 1991.

Peering through the smoke…

Already we’re past the first month of 2020. Jo and Chris came close to fire trouble in Berrara, on New South Wales South Coast in early December. Sydney has been smoke affected most days from early November until today. It’s a nation changing crisis. See a summary I wrote for Sight Magazine here.

Undeterred, three remarkable Australian Evangelical leaders, and two remarkable Historians (Aussie & Brit) brought some clarity to the past, present and future of Christian activism of the evangelical kind in Sydney on January 20th. It was the opening event for Anglican Deaconess Ministries (ADM) School of Theology, Culture and Public Engagement. Chris wrote the story for Sight Magazine Then reported on an exemplar of evangelical activism for the future here.

Meanwhile Jo is busy in the production of Australian Premiere musical theatre performance of Babette’s Feast. Stay tuned!

Latest Sight Magazine Feature

Chris has just completed a report on the Christianity and Treaty Conference by Scarred Tree Ministries Saturday May 4, 2019. Together with Jo he will head for the U.S. in a few days for two weeks of mixed work and play with U.S. family – a wedding of a dear niece. Link here to the the Sight Magazine Story: AUSTRALIA: TREATY CONFERENCE PROVIDES UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR A RECONCILING CHURCH

Settled & Working in Sydney

Jo and Chris have settled in Cammeray since January – dog Clark acclimatised as well. Our lives have taken a step up in pace and engagement with the stories that matter to us – Jo producing at least two plays before this year is over and Chris writing for Sight Magazine, teaching English as Second Language in the CBD, and expecting to complete a memoir before the year is out. Here’s his first story for Sight Magazine. THE BIG DRY: HOW AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIANS ARE REACHING OUT IN A “MINISTRY OF TEARS”

Back in the Saddle

After two weeks in Sydney, a week of rehearsals for W;t, and three video projects completed, it’s time for our return to Noosa Heads.  In January we’ll depart Noosa more permanently to our new home in the Sydney suburb of Cammeray. 

How great it feels to be back in the saddle producing short promo films for an institution as remarkable as ADM and the Mary Andrews College.  Here’s the latest effort.

Celebrating Mary Andrews College from Christopher Gilbert on Vimeo.