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The National Day of Thanksgiving: it's the ‘white fella’ religious right again

By Alan Matheson - posted Thursday, 24 May 2007

The National Day of Thanksgiving (NDOT), on May 26, 2007, is "a unique opportunity for Australians to celebrate and give thanks for our God given heritage as a nation".

But it's a con.

In fact, it's worse than a con. It's a diversion and a deliberate sabotage of one of the year’s most significant times for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) communities. And it also should be a time of deep remorse, reconciliation and commitment by all Australians, for apologies and action.


May 26 is Sorry Day and the Long Walk; the 40th Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum is commemorated on May 27, and that day also marks the beginning of the National Week of Reconciliation.This will be followed by the 50th anniversary of the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee on July 8-15, ("NAIDOC: Looking forward, looking Black").

The hurt and anger felt by the ATSI communities is bluntly and emotionally reflected by the National Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission's recent statement. It is "evident that people do not care", said its Secretary, we are "left on the dung heap of society … for the vast majority, life still stinks … Indigenous Australians cannot help but feel quite alone in their quest for justice".

The paternalism and arrogance of the religious right and its NDOT is breathtaking.

Challenged two years ago that they were trampling over the Indigenous community’s Sorry Day, the organiser of NDOT responded, "We hadn't even thought of that, we weren't aware when Sorry Day was".

Well this year they sort of remembered. Among those to be thanked, the firefighters, seniors and Rotary members, is "our First Nation People". But in fact after that listing, they disappear.

There are pages and pages on "ideas" and "suggestions": employers can hold morning teas for their employees; a thankyou morning tea for your local police; or "gift cards and ribbons" - "$2 a pack of 6" - for your boss, local police or fire brigade; but not a word about morning tea for "our First Nation".


Then comes the strategy: contact the "community groups you are targeting - local council, parliamentary members, Rotary, Lions, Apex as well as sporting and social bodies". No "First Nation" in that lot.

It's white Christian triumphalism at its best. It's a time for "rededication of our nation to God", to declare God's "prophetic vision for our Nation", to "proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ over our Nation", and as one of the speakers to the Parliamentary Prayer Network prophesied, it's time for "Christians to take over the world and that Australia is on the brink of becoming a theocracy".

But there's still another agenda behind all this thanksgiving. For the organisers it's not only "a vehicle to assist in restoring Christian values", it's also "an effective tool to engage in mission and evangelism".

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About the Author

Alan Matheson is a retired Churches of Christ minister who worked in a migration centre in Melbourne, then the human rights program of the World Council of Churches, before returning to take responsibility for the international program of the ACTU.

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