The peak body representing First Nations Catholics has invited fellow Catholics to make 2022 a year of action to ‘strengthen Australia’s foundations by supporting Australia’s First Peoples’.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) issued a statement for Australia Day, reflecting on this year’s theme: Reflect. Respect. Celebrate.

The statement unpacks those three verbs and encourages people to consider a response as individuals and as Catholics.

‘By reflecting upon the theme on a personal level, we are assuming the responsibility for action and not leaving it to others to create change,’ it reads.

‘Combined with our innate desire, as Catholics, to become more like Christ, we are individually called to action to make Australia a country that more closely reflects our Christian beliefs of equality, respect and care for our poor and vulnerable.

‘A nation built upon these beliefs is a strong and inclusive nation – something we all desire. However, a strong nation is built upon a strong foundation, and currently Australia’s foundations are undermined by its relationship with its First Peoples.’

To strengthen those foundations, NATSICC recommends the addition of a fourth verb to the Australia Day theme: Do.

‘Words are easy and limitless, but actions require time, effort and commitment,’ the statement says. ‘We ask that you make 2022 the year of “Do”.’

NATSICC offers some practical suggestions for how parishes, schools, organisations and individuals can take up that challenge.

They include attending Mass at an Aboriginal and Islander Catholic Ministry, displaying acknowledgement plaques prominently in public places and supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, chair of the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, welcomed NATSICC’s Australia Day statement and its call to action.

‘The Church is always seeking concrete ways to walk with our First Nations sisters and brothers, and we see in this document advice on how we can do that in tangible ways, recognising their unique place in our country’s history,’ he said.

Bishop Macbeth-Green, whose Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes is home to a significant Indigenous population, singled out a new cross-cultural competency training program NATSICC has developed as a key tool in helping increase awareness about Australia’s First Peoples.