on being blackfella's young fella
It was a delight recently to read the Revd Glenn Loughrey's latest book On Being Blackfella's Young Fella and to contribute to our diocesan Reconciliation Action Plan Working discussions to highlight this valuable work. For the four contributions (including Aunty Sandra King OAM - as pictured above) check out the article in. Anglican Focus here. Still better do get a copy of the book and share it with others. Here below is my own reflection on one particular chapter...
‘This Ground, She’s My Mother’
I was drawn to ‘This Ground, She’s My Mother’ for several reasons. It was spiritually inviting, as understanding material existence as spirit is so limited in white western thinking, and female imagery for being is also rare, particularly from a male writer. More importantly, however, I wanted to see how far Glenn’s understanding of ‘country’ differed from and resonated with my own. As someone with strong Celtic spirituality, I am interested in such connections. Having a topographic surname specifically referring to features of another land (in Old English ‘Inkpin’ means ‘people of the hill’, specifically a location in Berkshire, England), I am also aware of my and my own ancestors’ deep, but ruptured connections, with my/our country.
What struck me most in this chapter were the quoted words of an unidentified “Indigenous woman” who once said, “I carry my country in my body”. This holistic understanding of identity importantly helps maintain life for First Nations peoples when off country. It also underpins the helpful distinction Glenn makes between sovereignty and autonomy. Too much he says has been made of principles of the ‘sovereignty’ of people, when it is the land itself that is sovereign, as it is the life-giver. People’s sovereignty may therefore be a necessary legal use of a key term in the dominant culture. However true self-determination is based on the autonomy of country which is an embodied cultural reality.
Glenn’s exploration of connection to country thus happily avoids sentimentality and grounds The Uluru Statement from the Heart and other First Nation rights to self-determination in the autonomy of country itself. Shared spaces and similarities may exist for acting and engaging with others. However, in the words of Sarah Maddison whom he also quotes, the autonomy of carrying country bodily involves “making mistakes, being accountable, and fixing those mistakes yourself” (page 70).
Carrying country bodily suggests to me a greater need for deeper grounding of my Reconciliation work in the particular experiences and cultures of First Nation peoples. Strengthening such connections, literally and metaphorically, is therefore essential. Whilst mediating language, such as ‘sovereignty’, may be helpful at times, supporting the autonomy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is central.
Glenn Loughrey On Being Blackfella’s Young Fella: Is Being Aboriginal Enough?
(Coventry Press, Victoria. 2020)
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Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.