About FACE holds a special place in my heart. My parents went on the first About FACE, to Kiribati in the Pacific Islands not long after they were married. My uncle was away on the second About FACE when I was born, living up in Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land. My father (a Uniting Church minister) hosted an About FACE in Jabiru, in the Northern Territory. I grew up with stories from these trips, and one of my earliest experiences of Aboriginal people was when a Yolngu family my uncle had stayed with lived with my grandparents for a while. This is the earliest memory I have of interacting with people whose first language was different to mine. My memories are vague (I was five!) but precious, and in recent years I’ve been lucky enough to have had the chance to reencounter some of these people.
Despite thinking it’s a great program, I had dismissed About FACE as too expensive and ‘not necessary’ for me – my Dad is a minister with Congress and I have had contact with a number of Indigenous communities across SA and the NT. When I heard whisper that the numbers were low I decided to give it a go, putting my money where my mouth is to support a program I firmly believe in. What followed was an incredible experience witnessing the program open other peoples’ eyes, learning more about Congress, building relationships, seeing beautiful country, feeling refreshed and renewed in my own faith and proud of the church I belong to.
My group went to Mapoon, on the Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland. We stayed with Michelle Cook, James Hughes and their (adorable) son, Zane. While we were there we met people from across the community and heard some of their stories. I really enjoyed being able to connect with some of the youth, and it was the spontaneous moments that really made it for me. Going for walks along the beach, getting to taste some traditional tucker, swimming in beautiful (and not so beautiful) waterholes, and sharing experiences with people from totally different backgrounds to my own were all highlights. Whilst we were staying in Mapoon, we went up to Weipa and Napranum a number of times and also had a trip out to Aurukun, which I really appreciated. Each of these communities differed from the other, reflecting just a taste of the diversity of Australia’s varying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences.
I strongly recommend going on About FACE. I feel so blessed by the experiences I had and am definitely considering participating in the next one in some way. About FACE took me from my ‘real world’ to the real world of living in Cape York, enabled me to build relationships with people from all over Australia and gave me space to just be. I met God in the people of Mapoon, Napranum, Weipa and Aurukun; in the beautiful country that surrounded us; in the people I traveled and stayed with; and in the Uniting Church and Congress staff that facilitated our briefing and debriefing experiences. I emerged with a strengthened respect for our church, some incredible new friendships and a love for the people and country I visited.