All non-Aboriginal Australians should be prepared to leave the country

stolen-generationOn Tuesday, The Age ran a piece which picked up on some comments made in a recent lecture by Aussie theologian Peter Adam. [The full text of Peter’s talk is available here]. I’ve learnt much from Peter over many years, particularly about pastoral ministry (see his Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching and Hearing God’s Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality), and believe that he is always worth listening to, and no less in this case so germane to what it means to be human community (I have posted on issues relating to indigenous Australians elsewhere). Here’s the report from Barney Zwartz:

All non-Aboriginal Australians should be prepared to leave the country if the indigenous people want that, making restitution for the vile sin of genocide, an Anglican leader suggested last night.

If they stayed, they would have to provide whatever recompense indigenous peoples thought appropriate, the Reverend Peter Adam told a Sydney audience.

”It would in fact be possible, even if very difficult and complicated, for Europeans and others to leave Australia. I am not sure where we would go, but that would be our problem,” he said.

Dr Adam, principal of Ridley College – the main Anglican theological college in Victoria – was giving the NSW Baptist Union’s annual John Saunders Lecture.

Dr Adam said Christian teaching required either restitution – returning what was stolen, the land – or recompense. If those who arrived after 1788 did not leave, they would need to ask each of the indigenous peoples what kind of recompense would be appropriate. This would be complicated and extensive but must be done or the genocide would be trivialised.

”No recompense could ever be satisfactory because what was done was so vile, so immense, so universal, so pervasive, so destructive, so devastating and so irreparable.”

Dr Adam acknowledged that some people had done their best to remedy wrongs, including some government actions, but something ”more drastic” was required.

Dr Adam said churches shared responsibility because the land and wealth of churches came from land stolen from indigenous people. ”The prosperity of our churches has come from the proceeds of crime. Our houses, our churches, our colleges, our shops, our sport grounds, our parks, our courts, our parliaments, our prisons, our hospitals, our roads, our reservoirs are stolen property.”

He called for a co-ordinated recompense by churches that included supporting indigenous Christian ministry and training.

”We European Australians often claim that one of the strengths of the Australian character is ‘caring for the underdog’. That claim is hypocrisy – we do not act with justice, let alone care.”

He said his proposal would be difficult, complicated and costly. ”The alternative is to fail in our moral duty, to admit that for Australia, in Martin Luther King jnr’s words, ‘the bank of justice is bankrupt’.”


  1. This is scary, if we respect the duty of Aussies to leave we probably have a duty to accomodate them… welcome them and provide hospitality. So far it hasn’t been too difficult


  2. I’m not entirely unsypathetic to the concerns that seem to be driving Adam’s suggestion. But there is a real risk here of committing the sort of ethical evasions that Gillian Rose objected to in her critique of a putatively post-modern ethics that construes one party – “the other” – simply as victim. The pursuit of justice in Australia may be a far more difficult and unsettling matter, and may require far more imagination, than the rather comforting (for non-aboriginal Australians at least) proposal that the sins of European unilateralism can be redressed by the unilateral action of those who have suffered under colonialism.


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