Ngardarb, a Bardi-Jawi elder from One Arm Point in West Kimberley, says the federal government risks making the same mistakes it has always made with the First Nations, but this time over same-sex marriage.
"We're still trying to fix a lot of the problems that was done from way back," says Ngardarb, "and you're not making it any easier by not really talking to the Aboriginal people, talking to our elders."
Ngardarb says her people have honoured marriage as an arrangement involving a man and a woman for thousands of years. Continuing to do so is part of what helps preserve their heritage.
"Marriage is very important. The structure of families has always been important," she says. "
"The very fibre of our heritage, our continuity of family connections has been the very foundation of having a mother and a father, a family unit."
Ngardarb says the Aboriginal view of marriage as one man and one woman plays into the heart of their connection with the land.
"From that unit children are linked to their mother's country, to their father's country," she explains.
"So we've got strong blood lines that are connected to country, and that has never been broken. It's still very strong to this day. But it's being challenged in what's happening today."
Ngardarb says she was hesitant to share her tribe's perspective because of the heat in the same-sex marriage debate.
"We don't want to ostracise our same-sex marriage people, we're not there to criticise them," she says.
"We just want to hold on to the values that have been passed down, to hold on to our kinship structures."
Ngardarb says these kinship marriage structures started with their ancestors and have endured for millennia, and her people cannot see why they should be changed now.
She says she has heard a great many voices so far in the debate that have supported the 'Yes' vote, and originated from urban Australia.
"I'm not putting anyone down, but I feel that these are a people who have not experienced the full force of the kinship structure, and no fault of theirs," she says, "but I think our voices need to be heard."
"I've been scared to even say stuff because of what's been happening out there, you know?" Ngardarb says. "But sometimes you just need to have your say. And I know my place in my tribe and my community, and my clan group."
"And I want to see that part of our culture continue on to the future."
Family is often something we take for granted. Almost all of us are part of a family of some form. Typically, we consider this to mean either our parents and siblings, or a partner and children of our own. Family is understood in the Western world as the ‘nuclear’ family, though we may also have extended family members and more distant relatives we see less regularly. In one way or another, our families are important to us. They are our main source of practical and emotional support in our early years and often a major one in our later years. However, the way we live may not reflect this importance and critical decisions can be made without regard for this reality – with huge implications.
How can the Bible inform our approach to family? In the Bible, we see how God intended the extended family to be the basic unit of society, a source of lifelong economic provision and support, the foundation of welfare and the primary source of personal and religious identity. Although our lives and society are very different today, the wider family still plays a critical role both personally and publically. In a broken and hurting world, though, most families fall some way short of God’s ideal, and this is why local churches provide an alternative place of belonging and support for many people.
In accordance with s 6(5) of the Marriage Law Survey (Additional Safeguards) Act 2017, this communication was authorised by Michael Kellahan of Sydney for Freedom for Faith.
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