RAP advances social change

A reconciled community is one in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians work together in a spirit of respect, honesty, humility, mutual care, accountability and trust to bring about hope, healing, love, justice and peace.

These fundamental principles are part of the message of Jesus, the living tradition of our Catholic faith, and Catholic Social Teaching. The dignity of every person and living being is fundamental to Christianity and this ethic of life has formed part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s culture for more than 60,000 years.

A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a powerful tool for advancing social change. Organisations that adopt a RAP can influence the attitudes and behaviours of the people who they guide, through either employment or study.

The Diocese Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry Group fosters spiritual, cultural and social development of its people. The group, which was up until recently known as the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, was originally established in 1975 by Sr Pat Adams, a Sister or Mercy who still lives in our diocese. A RAP subcommittee has been formed from the group comprising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, non-indigenous staff and members of the Diocese Leadership Group. In consultation with the First Nations People, the subcommittee is committed to establishing a RAP for use throughout our parishes, schools and agencies.

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s RAP will reflect our ongoing commitment to reconciliation and action with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many of whom are employees, parishioners or engage in our services. Through our RAP, the Diocese is committed to improved relationships, respect and opportunities.

The Diocese RAP will help us facilitate further understanding, promote meaningful engagement, provide an understanding of cultural ways, increase equality and develop sustainable employment. We are keen to collaborate with all parts of the diocesan community because all parts of the Diocese serve our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islandereople.

Our vision for reconciliation is to follow Catholic Social Teaching, which promotes a just society grounded in biblical revelations, and principles to end poverty, promote justice, uphold dignity, and further a love of God and love of neighbour. 

We believe in the value of human dignity, which provides people with the capacity to develop fully. With this RAP and future RAPs, the Diocese will deliver reconciliation actions aimed at closing social and economic gaps in order to ensure the human dignity of all First Nation Peoples we engage, employ, educate or assist. 

The first step in any RAP is to achieve stronger relationships and opportunities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We hope to achieve this by including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the day-to-day life of our diocesan, parish and agency worship, leadership, decision-making, employment and outreach.

It is hoped that by providing cultural awareness and learning opportunities to employees and members of the community we will develop an understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, spirituality, history and achievements.  Respect is central to our RAP, which is only possible if we take time to share stories.

Relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are an essential component of the success of any RAP. It involves all levels of the Diocese being engaged in the identified outcomes.  Accordingly, in order to achieve stronger relationships, respect and opportunities, resources of people, time and funds are committeds part of the RAP.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry Group meets every two months to explore ways of connecting with and advocating for the First Peoples in our community, to support National Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC week as well as cultural immersion experiences and to connect the staff and students and families in our schools, parishes and agencies to Aboriginal Catholic spirituality.

To adapt the words of John M Perkins;

There is no reconciliation until you recognise the dignity of the other person, until you really listen to their story and see their point of view and until you enter into their pain and woundedness, feel their need and walk with them. 


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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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