Prepared by a Sub-committee of the Founding Forum
in consultation with ACLRI Aboriginal Issues Task Force.
These guidelines are offered to Congregational Leaders
for use in the appointment of religious to Ministry
with Indigenous Australians. They are intended as support
and assistance in this task, rather than imposition
while at the same time reflecting and strongly asserting
a shift in our manner of working with Indigenous Australians.
The need to write such guidelines has emerged from
changing attitudes, circumstances and practice in the
appointment of religious to this ministry and from requests
from Aboriginal people for a consistent policy across
all Orders in the appointment of personnel to ministry
... changing attitudes, circumstances and practice
Two significant changes have affected the way in which
appointments to Ministry with Indigenous people are
- recognition of the right to self determination
for Aboriginal people
- changes in the responsibility of individual religious
and the congregation in discerning ministry placement
These have led to the evolution of a wider discernment
process which takes account of these factors.
- Recognising Indigenous people's right to self determination
includes accepting their right to be consulted and
to be part of the decision making process and their
right to have their methods of discernment respected.
In practice this means working in such a way that
Indigenous people are empowered to have responsibility,
assume leadership and take control of their own lives
It also includes recognition of their culture and
spirituality and the centrality of relationship
to both, and the collaborative forms of ministry
consistent with a relational perspective.
- As well as individual religious being more involved
in discernment about their ministry, they have come
to accept professional practices relevant to their
field of expertise. Just as accepted professional
practice applies in other ministries with regard to
recruitment, training, evaluation, review and reappointment,
appropriate professional practice should also apply
to Ministry with Indigenous People.
...requests for clarity and consistency in appointments
Some Religious Orders have had guidelines relating
to Ministry with Indigenous People and these have been
generously shared and drawn on in preparing these guidelines
While affirming the work of Religious, a request for
consistent policies across all Orders in the
appointment of religious to ministry with them, was
made by Indigenous people at the NATSICC National
Assembly in Darwin in July 1994. The need for clarity
and consistency and the involvement of Indigenous people
in appointment processes and procedures has also been
expressed at meetings of the Founding Forum - a network
of religious and priests working with Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people-at their meetings in Alice
Springs 1996, Broome 1997 and Sydney 1998.
The following guidelines are an attempt to address
these changes and concerns by naming the Starting
Points for movement into Ministry with Indigenous
People, the Processes which need to be attended
to and the possible Outcomes.
Traditionally the process of the appointment of religious
to ministry with Aboriginal People has followed the
course of :
- A Need identified by a Bishop with or without input
from the Aboriginal people.
- An invitation from the Bishop to a Congregation
to take up ministry in a specific area.
- A Congregational leader discerned availability and
suitability of member/s for the ministry and appointed
them to it, with or without consultation.
Following the changes outlined above there are now
three main ways the process of moving into Ministry
with Indigenous People begins. These are:
- Individual Initiative when an individual indicates
an interest in moving into this Ministry
- Indigenous Initiative when an Indigenous group or
individual approaches an individual and/or a church
group about putting personnel/resources into this
- Diocesan or Religious Leaders Initiative when Diocesan
or Congregational Leaders identify a need and seek
to address it.
The following processes may happen in consecutive steps
or they may take place concurrently. Some processes
may have already been attended to e.g. the person may
have already participated in a Cross Cultural Education
Programme or acquired skills appropriate for this ministry.
Each of the three processes: discernment, consultation
and training interact with and inform the other processes.
eg information from the consultation or training process
may lead to further discernment or, the discernment
process may identify training needs.
The time frame may vary for each person but would require
several months at least.
The vital point is that all processes are
attended to and that information and issues raised in
one process are fed back to other relevant processes.
Individual: discernment of an individual's call
and suitability for this ministry.
People involved in this would include:
the individual concerned
- a Spiritual Director
- Congregation representative
- Ministry Co-ordinator (where applicable)
- a Reference Group which includes:
- Indigenous People
- Religious experienced in Ministry with Indigenous
- Person/s who know this person well
- a facilitator
This process may include formal and informal meetings
and make use of various means of communication.
Congregational: Discernment of the Congregation's
ability and willingness to be involved in this ministry
and its consistency with their charism and current direction.
The Consultation is About
the needs of the community
the skills required to meet those needs
any need for further training by the person concerned
compatibility of the person with the local Indigenous
- the Indigenous Community concerned
- the person interested in the Ministry
- this presumes a period of immersion with the
- Congregational / Diocesan Leaders / Co-ordinators
- the employing agency e.g. CEO, Health Service,
- Diocesan / Congregation Indigenous Committee where
applicable - other relevant agencies in the area
- Religious who currently work or previously worked
in the area
The person intending to enter this Ministry may well
have attended to some or all of the necessary formation
Ongoing formation will be required to attend to any
of the following areas not covered by the person's previous
education and experience.
Cross Cultural Education
this is considered to be mandatory to address
knowledge about Indigenous history, culture
and communication styles
appreciation of Indigenous culture and spirituality
understanding of the dynamics of cross cultural
(Cross Cultural Education is available at the Centre
for Justice and Spirituality, Brisbane, and Nungalinya
Theology which includes a current theology
of mission and which addresses cross cultural mission
Spirituality which includes reflection upon
one's current reality
Required skills as identified in the Discernment
and Consultation phases.
Coping skills for dealing with the everyday
realities of cross cultural ministry, isolation
and lack of support structures
Review and Evaluation
Processes of review and Evaluation need to be understood
as integral to this ministry and undertaken at regular
intervals. They may well include the processes of discernment,
consultation and outcome, outlined above.
Option for Ministry with Indigenous People
In the case of a decision to proceed with an appointment
to Ministry with Indigenous People a Formal Agreement
is negotiated, or formalised if already negotiated in
the process of consultation. This involves all parties:
- Indigenous Community
- Employing agency (e.g. CEO, Diocese)
- Individual and Congregation
The Formal Agreement will include:
- Term of appointment
- Remuneration and leave
- Support structures
- Monitoring and review Processes
- Dispute resolution
At any stage in any of the processes outlined above
it may become clear that the person concerned is not
suitable for this ministry and they may choose, or be
encouraged to consider another ministry, further formation
or personal renewal.
It may also be the case that the Congregation is not
able to meet the need at this time or in these circumstances.