First people herald “Hear My Voice” DVD for World Mission Month


Catholi c Mission News Story
Photo Caption: Graeme Mundine from Sydney Archdiocese’s Aboriginal Catholic Ministry greets Murrinhpatha women, Angela Ninnal and Carmelita Perdjert, at Kirribilli House to herald World Mission Month indigenous theme “Hear My Voice...Believe”.

Catholic Mission’s newest DVD “Hear My Voice...Believe” which describes projects in partnership with indigenous people in Australia, Peru and Guatemala was brought vividly to life at a reception held at Kirribilli House on Thursday 22 September when Aboriginal women Angela Ninnal and Carmelita Perdjert shared their stories, songs and prayers with Catholic Mission supporters.

Angela and Carmelita speak Murrinhpatha; the language of the Kardu Diminin people of Wadeye (also known as Port Keats) which is a remote Aboriginal community situated 420km south west of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The township was originally founded in 1935 by MSC priest Father Richard Docherty at Werntek Nganayi (old Mission). It was later relocated to Wadeye to ensure a permanent water supply and accommodate an air strip. The MSC priests were joined in mission by OLSH Sisters who still teach in the Thamarrurr School.

On their trip to Sydney, Angela and Carmelita were accompanied by OLSH Sister Tess Ward, who acted as their translator. Angela and Carmelita, who feature on “Hear My Voice”, gave their blessings to the launch of the DVD, the title of which in Murrinhpatha is pronounced as “Murrinh Nubingayepup Kathu”. Both of the women have studied liturgy and theology at Darwin’s Nungalinya College, the ecumenical college which caters to 280 Aboriginal students who come from all over Australia.

Carmelita shared with the guests how she lived her Catholic faith in harmony with her traditional Dreaming, including her own totem the Crocodile.

“In the dormitory I learned about Jesus and in holidays I would go back to my people in the bush. There I would deepen my understanding of the whole dreaming and the relationship with the crocodile and its meaning to the land and to me.”

“People who are not of my clan sometimes think of the crocodile as an angry thing, but for me the crocodile is a friendly and gentle being. It is God who made the crocodile and who made all, and the story of the crocodile and the creation story of my own people is something makes me think of the story of Genesis.”

The Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Sydney, Graeme Mundine reminded guests that Kirribilli House stands on the traditional land of the Cammeraygal people, at the virtual epicentre of Aboriginal displacement and dispossession.

“This land was once occupied by a people who were in harmony with their surroundings, who had a complex and comprehensive system of law that enabled them to live together with each other and the land.” Mr Mundine said.

“But it was only six years after (Governor) Phillip sailed into this harbour that this land was ‘granted’ to a former convict, Samuel Lightfoot.”

The ensuing history of the Aboriginal peoples’ interaction with Church and State had been long and arduous. “Despite a sometimes uncomfortable shared history we always remember that the Churches have been here working with us for a very long time.

“We have a long history of relationship, of working together hand in hand; a tradition that is being continued through the excellent work of Catholic Mission. Although there were clashes as two cultures came together, they did come together. And many have successfully welded their Aboriginality and their Catholicism to create who they are today.”

Catholic Mission’s National Director Mr Martin Teulan said current Catholic Mission partnerships with grassroots Aboriginal communities included Nungalinya College and three projects in the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocese: ‘Strong Young Mums’, ‘Manage Your Income’ and ’Outback Pitstop.’

“These are the kind of gentle partnerships we are supporting with Aboriginal people around Australia.” Mr Teulan said.

“When we hear the theme ‘Hear My Voice’ of the 2011 World Mission Day, it is the voice of so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people asking to be heard.”

Mr Teulan said the DVD which has been distributed to all parishes helps acknowledge the work of Catholic Mission’s Home Mission Fund in its ministry to Australia’s first peoples. “We ask our supporters to give generously to our work in building bridges with all Aboriginal and Torres Strait people and for indigenous people around the world.”

Watch “Hear My Voice...Believe” at YouTube

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