Yakila: Walking and talking together in reconciliation and understanding

19 April 2024

Yakila: Walking and talking together in reconciliation and understanding

In February 2024, more than 150 Salvation Army delegates met for The Salvation Army’s ‘Yakila – Walking and Talking Together’ gathering in South Australia, enjoying a chance to share and learn through guest speakers, yarning circles, truth-telling and prayer. According to The Salvation Army’s Shirli Congoo, in keeping with the National Reconciliation Week (27 May to 3 June) theme, this level of engagement and learning within the Salvos – and all organisations – is essential, ‘now more than ever’*.

The ‘Yakila – Walking and Talking Together’ gathering gave Salvation Army personnel and members around Australia the chance to communicate, share and learn together, while marking and celebrating the completion of the first stage of The Salvation Army’s national Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

The first two days of the gathering offered an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Salvation Army personnel and church (corps) members to meet and connect, with the remaining days open to non-Indigenous personnel and Salvation Army church members.

Journey of reconciliation and understanding

Yakila guest speakers and their subjects included Mark Yettica Paulson (our readiness for truth-telling), Gabriel Bani (Torres Strait Islander cultural worldview), Grant Paulson (sacred drivers for social change) and Professor Anne Patel-Gray (a journey of the vision for First Nations peoples). Welcome to Country was performed by Major Moogy Sumner (AM), and the opening night hosted a performance by Aboriginal dance group Dusty Feet Mob.

Shirli Congoo, General Manager of The Salvation Army’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team, and the team, facilitated yarning circles and reflections.

Now more than ever

Shirli said of the success of the conference, “Yakila, which brought Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of The Salvation Army together, ties in well with the 2024 theme for National Reconciliation Week, ‘Now more than ever’. It reminds us that, at its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, for the benefit of all Australians.

“Reconciliation is an ongoing journey, not a destination. We must remember that while generations of Australians have fought hard for meaningful change, future gains are likely to take just as much, if not more, effort. We encourage all in The Salvation Army to continue to be committed and intentional about our ongoing journey.”

Yakila – Walking and Talking Together’ gathering in South Australia

Celebration of progress

Speaking at the Yakila gathering, Salvation Army Chief Secretary Colonel Winsome Merrett said: “Over 1200 Salvos gathered together in yarning circles online during COVID, and out of those yarning circles, it was really determined that Salvos had a heart and passion to see things change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in regard to the disadvantage that they were experiencing.

“I am incredibly proud to say that because of the leadership of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team and the involvement of large numbers of Salvos across this territory, every single [RAP] deliverable, all 89 of them, have been actioned and delivered on.”

Prayers for the future of reconciliation and understanding

Uncle Vince Ross, a Madi Madi man and The Salvation Army’s convenor of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council, and Salvation Army Territorial Commander Commissioner Miriam Gluyas, brought opening prayers and greetings.

“What you have to do is go two steps back and see where you’ve come from,” Miriam said, reflecting on thoughts shared by Uncle Vince.

“Then you need to go two steps forward and see where you are right now. Today has been an incredible day of thinking through where we are, but we’re not stopping here. We’re going two steps forward again to see all that can be. We are going to believe big and imagine what God will do.”

The gathering was closed by Uncle Vince Ross, who shared a blessing, saying: “May the God of creation warm your heart like the campfires of old, bring wisdom and peace as shown to the First Peoples of this land.

“Shake off the dust from the desert plain by the flow and washing of the rain and let the light of God show us the right path to take, and stand tall, like the big river gums, drawing life from the ever-flowing waters. Amen.”

Members of The Salvation Army Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander team

*The Reconciliation Australia website notes, “The National Reconciliation Week theme for 2024, Now More Than Ever, is a reminder to all of us that no matter what, the fight for justice and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will – and must – continue.”

(Based on an original article written by Anthony Castle for Salvos Online https://www.salvosonline.org.au/post/reconciliation-action-plan-moves-to-next-level)

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