Making History at the 2021 May Assembly

Welcome to country at 2021 May Assembly; photo credit Jo Sinclair
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first peoples:

Welcome to Country

Paul Dare spoke a moving Welcome to Country at the 2021 May Assembly.

“This is the beginning of something amazing.”

Paul Dare

Paul writes of his emotions and responses to that moment . . .

For those unlucky enough not to be at the Assembly in May, there was a welcome to country done for the first time I can remember. To me this was an incredible release of emotion and relief – let me tell you why.

As a proud indigenous Lia Pootah man, this was momentous. Setting aside years of ‘whiteness’, we acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land.

The relief I felt with the Welcome to Country was similar to the peace I felt when I firs felt God within me. Paul Dare.
Photo Credit: Jo Sinclair

There are some times in my life where I know I’m going to be emotional before it happens, and this was one of them. To me it was akin to the acknowledgement of Jesus, and welcoming of the Holy Spirit into my life. I have thought about it and these are strong words, but the relief I felt with the welcome to country was similar to the peace I felt when I first felt God within me. It was as powerful as that!

I have thought about why this was so and it has a lot to do with oppression and the whitewashing of my history not only by society, but my family’s history.

When I was growing up we were told there were no Tasmanian aboriginals left. My dad was told never to mention it. But through time I began to understand more of my history, and more of my ‘connection to land’. I have discovered a peace in my ancestral home that in whiteness is not normal, but for me it’s confirmation of everything that I am as a person and I am in God.

Welcome to country is important because it is our way of welcoming all, regardless of your history, in peace and friendship. We welcome you to take from the land what it can sustainably give and no more. We want to encourage growth of bonds and ideas. As well, we want to encourage you to grow in spirit (Holy Spirit) and see the land the way we see it. I use ‘we’ here because it is all about community and not the individual.

When I was growing up, we were told there were no Tasmanian aboriginals left.

So where to from here? Baptist people can help with reconciliation can heal wounds, both known and unknown, by having a welcome to country at your church. It is a powerful statement to the community and to your heart.

Yours in Christ,
Paul Dare

Paul Dare, Citywide Levendale
Paul Dare

Born in Wynyard, Paul is a proud indigenous Lia Pootah man who grew up in Myalla. He has been an electronics technician, aerospace engineer, army officer and pastor. He retired in 2019, but currently oversees the Levendale Fellowship (Citywide).

Paul is the author of the Tasmanian Baptists’ Acknowledgement of Country on the homepage of this website.

Read more stories in the June 2021 ADVANCE | step by step