Khesed News #82 - Page 4

Article Index


Peter Adams: Australia – Whose Land?
Peter Adams is Principal of Ridley College, Melbourne. Selected quotes from the Second Annual
John Saunders Lecture 10 Aug 2009, which Peter also presented in Perth in April 2010.

1. Australia is God’s land, given
to the indigenous peoples of this land…
Modern Western people assume that what
they use belongs to them, that they own the
land… and have lost the idea that land and
universe belongs.. to God, who created all
lands… All we have and are – food, water
and our bodies, minds and hearts - are all
God’s constant gifts…

God distributed lands to the peoples of
the world: “God… made from one ancestor
all nations... and [set] boundaries of the
places where they would live.” (Acts 14:26)…
To respect and honour God is to know that
He made Australia, and to treat the existing
indigenous peoples who were here in 1788
with respect. Terra nullius treated people as
if they had no significance.

Sometimes God re-allocates land – see
Deut 2… God dispossessed the nations
of the land of Canaan, to make room for
His people... this does not mean that every
dispossession of land is the will of God. The
normal situation is expressed in Amos 1 & 2.
…if someone did not have full legal rights to
land… to dispossess them: would our rights
be any more legitimate?

…God, in His mercy may have worked
some things for good when Europeans
arrived in Australia, despite much that was
evil. But that does not make that act of
conquest an act of the will of God.

...we are very aware of the rights of
individuals, but less aware of the rights of
groups of people or of nations… Australia, We know those to whom
God gave the land, and we know that is
was stolen from them. It is time for sorrow,
repentance, and reparation…

God sent the prophet Elijah to Ahab
with these two accusations: “Have you killed,
and also taken possession?” (1 Kings 21:19)

…God’s commandments are clear: .. not
murder ..not steal.. not covet (Exod 20:13-
17). But we Europeans coveted space for a
penal colony, new land, new opportunities,
and great wealth. We coveted, and so we
stole, and so we also murdered. Lev 27:17:
We not only moved the boundary markers,
we removed them, and stole the land…

2. It is right to apologise

It is right to say ‘Sorry’. For they were
serious crimes and sins… Are we responsible
for the sins of others?... As far as I know,
none of my ancestors killed any indigenous
people. But they have benefited from death
and dispossession, and have grown wealthy
from the poverty of others…

No doubt there were some Europeans
who did not intend to do evil… unintended
evil still has grave consequences…

The land and wealth of churches came from
land that had been stolen from the indigenous
people of Australia… ‘Crown Grant’… the
government stole the land and gave it to the
church. We received stolen goods. Even if we
bought the land… it would still have originally
been stolen land. The prosperity of our
churches has come from proceeds of crime.
Saying sorry is the least we can do... Churches
that know the Scriptures and so know the will
of God should be the first to say sorry.

3. It is time to repent

Saying sorry is not enough. We need to
repent. Saying sorry may just mean remorse,
feeling sorry for ourselves, more self-pity…

It is time to repent, to turn from our
sin, to acknowledge our sin before God.
Repentance must lead to action, that of
making recompense…

... perhaps God was punishing the
indigenous people of this land by sending the
Europeans, [but] we must acknowledge that
we have committed greater sins…

We may feel that God is only concerned
with the sins of individuals, that there are
no shared sins. However, the Bible is deeply
concerned with the sins of communities,
from the sins of the people of the OT to ..the
church at Corinth… it also gives examples
of repentance for the sins of ancestors, as in
Daniel’s prayer.. confessing ‘my sin and the sin
of my people Israel,’ (Dan. 9:20) - corporate
and ancestral sin…

..a Christian nation colonizing the
Australian wilderness [should] have sought to
bless the original possessor…

4. It is time to make recompense

If I hurt someone, it is not enough to be
sorry, not even enough to repent. I must also
recompense the person, or else my repentance
is a sham. of the strengths of the Australian
character is ‘caring for the underdog.’ That
claim is rank and blatant hypocrisy. We do
not act with justice, let alone care…

5. Recompense: a practical proposal

i. recognise that recompense is a duty and

ii. recognise that recompense is based on our
duty, not the needs of indigenous people…

iii. recognise that no recompense could ever
be satisfactory. Because what was done was
so vile... so irreparable.

iv. Ask the indigenous people if they
want those of us who have arrived since
1788 to leave, or to provide an equivalent
recompense… Leaving... has happened in
India, Africa and Indonesia in the last sixty

v. If we do not leave, then… what kind of
recompense would be appropriate?..

vi. Be prepared to give costly recompense…

vii. Adopt a national recompense policy, in
the form of a Treaty.. implemented locally…

viii. By negotiation, a one-off act or a constant
and long-term series of acts…

ix. Voluntary recompense by churches in a
coordinated way…

James Hardie has had to provide
recompense to workers harmed by asbestos.
There is wide-spread feeling that this is

‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’… We
have wronged our neighbours. It is now time
to pay our debts, to confess our sins, to give
recompense that we owe…

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