I believe the oldest connection to Australia that I have is a distant relative who was a member of the Rum Corps. It was from a time when the convicts were forcibly transported here and the soldiers sent to guard them all came on ships reluctantly.
They forcibly took hold of lands that had been walked on for thousands of years by indigenous people displacing them too, as the first European settlers made Australia home.
From the time of first British landings and colonization we have had a checkered history of forced arrivals and contentious land grabs. We have been a country which has been built on displacing peoples or receiving displaced peoples.
From displaced indigenous people and the forced immigrants both convicts and soldiers alike, to more recent years of people seeking a better and safer life, seeking refuge and asylum, ours is a country with a young history which we should never fail to forget.
As I consider the injunction of the Old Testament to welcome the alien and stranger in our midst and to ensure they are provided for I am left with perplexing questions about our current policies. Where is the compassion? And where is the memory of our history?
This impassioned plea from a Uniting Church Minister who has Tamil origins struck a chord for me as I listened. Let us pray for changes at home and abroad so that not only we might show a better welcome for refugees and asylum seekers as we remember our own history. But, also that the violence and discrimination that gives rise to the need to flee from other countries might also change and peace and justice reign there as well.