Jo and I (Chris) are enjoying our second year at Milsons Point in Sydney having come through a period where COVID itself was among the least of the challenges. I continue teaching international students how to integrate Christian character into their career choice at Excelsia College, while Jo manages the communication team for the uniquely Australian initiative, Baptist World Aid.
And I have recently returned from visiting Noosa Heads in Queensland – with border open at last a first chance to visit family members since March 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In a break from teaching at Excelsia College, Chris is delighted to get opportunity to do further film editing work for ADM. Some great advice in caring for our own wellbeing to be found in this short video clip:
Remarkable crowd unity in Sydney’s Martin Place as I was reporting for Sight Magazine on the rally opposing the abortion bill being debated across the street in the NSW parliament. SIGHTMAGAZINE.COM.AU