SAINT Patrick’s College in Townsville hosted the 2022 National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) assembly this week.
NATSICC Chairman and Australian Aboriginal John Lhowiak said the five-day event was a fantastic opportunity to share culture and stories.
“The conference just keeps getting better,” he said with a laugh.
Held every three years, the NATSICC Assembly has invited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics and other community groups to come together and discuss important issues.
“I think sharing is healing in itself,” Lochwiak said.
“We have Catholics across Australia who have come together to share and strengthen their faith through the power of prayer and conversation.”
The Bishop of Darwin, Charles Gauci, said members of the conference had discussed the referendum proposal for an indigenous voice in parliament in “very detailed” fashion.
“We have had many discussions about establishing an indigenous voice in government,” Archbishop Gauci said.
“We also talked about the working of the holy spirit, the Uluru Declaration, and discussed how we can help Indigenous Australians become church leaders.”
This year’s conference included workshops, youth assembly programs and guest speakers.
Donella Brown, Australian Aboriginal and director of Aboriginal Catholic Ministries in Perth, said there was a “collective sigh of relief” when the conference began.
“Since COVID-19, we haven’t been able to meet for ages,” she explained.
“It’s important to them [Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians] walk together in partnership.
The first assembly of the NATSICC was held in January 1989 in Cairns.
When asked how the conference has changed since its beginnings 33 years ago, Bishop Gauci paused.
“Challenges change and others remain constant,” he said.
“There is always a desire for First Nations people to be treated with respect and justice.
“We have to recognize that these people have been here for thousands of years.
“I hope we can move forward with justice, fairness and common ground.”