Page 36 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 13 December 2016
of this land, the Ngunnawal people, and I pay my respects to their elders past and present, and I acknowledge their care and the custodianship of this land for many millennia. I acknowledge and express my profound thanks for the way that they have built and nurtured community here. I acknowledge the presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this place today, and personally I commit myself to ongoing acts of reconciliation with our nation’s first peoples.
There is an ancient saying: “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” This wisdom encourages us, I believe, to reflect on and to own both who we are and how it is that we have come to see the world as we do. So just as I am very aware of the traditional owners of this land and the people who have gone before me in this place, I am also very mindful of and thankful for my own background.
I know that the family security and stability in which I was raised is itself a great privilege. My father was a pharmacist in the days when the local pharmacist was truly a key role in the local community. He was someone who knew and valued people and their lives, as well as their health concerns.
My mother was an economic statistician with the Reserve Bank in the days when a female could only be promoted beyond a particular position in the Reserve Bank if she could type at a particular speed. It did not matter that her position as an economic statistician did not actually require her to type at all. But her determination not to allow an archaic and discriminatory system to overcome her not only guaranteed her career but also it meant, when combined with the generosity and the dedication to her family that she brought, that those skills were regularly used for the benefit of her children’s education. Both my parents died too young and we are all the worse off for their passing. I honour them.
I am also mindful of the circumstances in profession and vocation that have led me to this place. With the youthfulness of a number of the representatives that we have in this place, I am mindful of my position at the other end of the spectrum. I am just old enough to be at the tail end of the free tertiary education that was introduced by the Whitlam government. That education, after brief stints as an ugg boot salesman and as a market research interviewer, took me into my first career, as a solicitor in Sydney.
When I left that legal career for ordination in the Uniting Church, many in the profession did not quite understand what I was doing. In fact, when told that I was entering the ministry, one of the partners in the firm that I was working with asked, “Which one?” That step not only has given me the privilege over the past 23 years of hearing and engaging with the depths of people’s lived experiences, but also it has opened and created a path for pursuing social justice, inclusion and welcome, and of paying most regard to those people who are our society’s most vulnerable and most marginalised.
They are the values that have shaped me. They are the values that have formed my actions for decades. To the commentator who recently said of me that “as a person of faith and with his background we can assume he is conservative”, I would simply point out that my track record of advocacy and action may well suggest otherwise. People of faith, whether Christian or one of the many other faiths in our community,