The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby visited our First Nations school, Gawura, to acknowledge and celebrate the work of its staff and students, and the remarkable contribution of one of its founders, Pastor Raymond Minniecon.
The Archbishop visited St Andrew’s Cathedral and Gawura today following his decision to award Pastor Minniecon with the Hubert Walter Award in celebration of his profound leadership, bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the face of a tumultuous and divisive history.
“This is an award for ‘Uncle Ray’ to say thank you for the amazing work he does being a positive person for those who have lived here for 60,000 years,” said Archbishop Justin Welby, speaking to the Gawura students.
“He has helped people to understand why [a First Nations presence] is so important and he’s built bridges between groups so they can learn how to love one another as Jesus does.”
Pastor Minniecon has dedicated his life to supporting members of the Stolen Generation who were forcibly removed from their families by government agencies and church missions from the late 1800s. Minniecon, who grew up in Gureng Gureng Country in Queensland, evaded capture as a young boy and considers himself one of the lucky few.
Despite his personal experience, he has long held out hope for a new way forward – a way in which First Nations peoples and non-Indigenous communities can be united.
His life’s work has flowed out of this hope and has included pioneering an Indigenous Theological Studies Community, a Christian community in Glebe called Scarred Tree Ministries, and Gawura, located in Sydney’s CBD.
The Archbishop of Canterbury visited Gawura today after hearing Minniecon speak about its student body, which is made up of local First Nations children throughout the city. The school was established in 2007 by Pastor Minniecon, his wife Sharon and St Andrew’s Cathedral School, as a response to growing educational inequality.
“Taking an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child out of the traditional educational context and system and placing them in a foreign [Western] educational system has resulted in far too many of our children being seen as failures,” says Pastor Minniecon. “We realised it was the system that needed to change, not the child.”
After 13 years of groundbreaking work, Gawura was recognised at the Australian Education Awards as the 2020 national ‘Primary School of the Year’.
“St Andrew’s Cathedral School has been hard at work in the areas of justice and reconciliation,” said Pastor Minniecon, who is on the School’s governing council. “We’re telling the truth, we have to tell the truth to each other, because it’s the truth that sets us free. We’re having a go at it anyway.”
It’s this willingness – to give things a go – that has underscored Pastor Minniecon’s work and it’s why he’s been recognised by the principal leader of the Church of England as a person who has made an extraordinary contribution to the Church and wider society.
Pastor Minniecon receives the Hubert Walter Award
Archbishop Welby with Gawura staff and students
Justin and Caroline Welby field questions from eager students
Archbishop Welby accepts a gift from students