Lucy Davis is The Salvation Army (Qld) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement coordinator.
Can you describe your role?
I support Salvation Army corps (churches) and social services in looking at how we can better engage with Aboriginal and Torres Islander people; how we can better understand our shared history and how we can more effectively worship and work together in our shared country.
How do you do that?
One of my roles is running cultural awareness workshops to raise awareness through truth-telling and reconciliation. I also look at how our churches and services can engage more effectively with Indigenous people.
On a broader level, my role looks at how we (as The Salvation Army) can contribute to closing the gap between Indigenous First Nations people and non-Indigenous people.
Indigenous Australians are more likely to die earlier than non-Indigenous. Indigenous Australians make up 3% of the population and yet more than 25% of the prison population. The suicide rate is almost double that of non-Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Australians are over-represented in addiction and in illness and health issues such as diabetes, kidney disease and mental health issues.
How have your faith and culture shaped you?
I am a proud Aboriginal woman. For Aboriginal people, family—kinship—is everything. My aunties are not only my biological aunties, but others who helped raise me in my community and therefore they are my responsibility.
Our culture is very spiritual. We believe we belong to the land; where other cultures believe they own things, we believe the land owns us.
Working with The Salvation Army has broadened my spiritual framework and understanding of the love of Jesus and the importance of seeking to help others. I feel that God has put me on a journey of truth-telling.
How do people respond to your workshops?
The majority are eager to learn and understand. It can be confronting, though. I am telling my story and that includes the effects of the Stolen Generations and massacres and pain and torture and inequality and racism. But it’s important because Indigenous history is part of all our histories.
One aspect of my cultural awareness training is talking about identity. I ask people to name what is most important to their identity—it might be God, family, home, community. Then I talk about what happens to people when you take each part of their identity away.
Is the continual work and debate worthwhile?
Yes; every day, my partner, my children and I face racism and we see the effects of past policies and attitudes.
At a recent workshop I was talking about why I found a cartoon about Serena Williams offensive (drawn in ‘Sambo’-style caricature). I explained that I was called ‘nigger’ and ‘Sambo’ at school, and I desperately don’t want my daughter facing that.
A participant said to me, “I was one of those keyboard warriors who wrote on Facebook that I didn’t see the cartoon as racist. But I’ve never experienced racism. I see that you and your children are hurt by it and, as a Christian and a mother, I now understand I need to support you.”
In some ways, I am reminding people who Jesus was and how we operate as Christians. I believe Christianity is for everybody and is about loving everyone because they are made in the image of God—even if they are homeless or in addiction, or are First Nations Indigenous people.
What is your greatest passion?
Apart from family and faith it is equality. It is heartbreaking to be in a place where you are not acknowledged in the founding document of the country.
Last year The Salvation Army joined 2,500 other churches and agencies in signing a statement, prepared by Professor Fiona Stanley and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) in consultation with many non-Indigenous and First Nations peoples, expressing disappointment at the Federal Cabinet’s rejection of the proposal for constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice. I am so proud to be a part of a ministry that is making a stand against injustice.
For more from Lucy visit others.org.au/viewpoint/statement-from-the-heart