Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Book review of Anaditj by Rev Dr (Deacon) Denise Champion


Anaditj by Aunty Rev (Deacon) Dr Denise Champion, © 2021

Follow the road your ancestors took

Aunty Denise Champion, a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia, is a proud Adnyamathanha woman from the Finders Ranges in South Australia, and the Theologian in Residence at Uniting College in Adelaide. In her new book, Anaditj, Aunty Denise  speaks of a life principle for Adnyamathanha Peoples, ‘a state of being’.

A literal English translation of the meaning of Anaditj is ‘the way things are’. However, as Aunty unpacks this, the reader will discover far deeper and profound meanings. Speaking of the “dark spaces between the stars”, Aunty describes “Dark Emu”, from which Bruce Pascoe took the title of his book about the way First Nations Peoples cared for the land, cultivated it and harvested it; Adnyamathanha Peoples look at the night sky and see the dark spaces between the constellations.

How do you read the Scriptures? Aunty Denise begins to open the readers mind to fresh understandings. “Jesus… a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek”. Could this be the “priesthood of all Creation”? She challenges the Western constructs and invites the reader to open themselves to Adnyamathanha ancient wisdom. 

Speaking of restoring the dignity of the Gospel, Aunty says: “What is the Gospel for us as indigenous people? When my culture and language is affirmed - that is Good News.” Speaking of the question Jesus asked, ‘Who do you say I am?’ Aunty answers, “Nina urtyu Ngalakanha Muda. You are the Christ. Anaditj. You are Big History.” Aunty Denise points the reader to the wisdom of the Cosmic Christ – Big History!

In Chapter 3, Aunty Denise says: “I don’t like the concept of being in or out, the concept of being lost or found, which has shaped the institutional structure of the church.” Aunty prefers to say: “I am urupaku, a follower of Jesus.” She then unpacks these statements and speaks of Christ as “Ngalakanha Muda”, talking of the love, care and protection of God. Aunty speaks about contemporary issues the church is challenged by and the Adnyamathanha wisdom which responds

Anaditj – “The Lord said: My people, when you stood at the crossroads, I told you, follow the road your ancestors took, and you will find peace.” (Jeremiah 6:16, NRSV). First Nations Peoples find peace in the pathway of the ancestors. Aunty Denise tells how she has discovered Christ in Adnyamathanha creation stories and cosmology, in this to “grasp the deeper meaning when Muda are understood as Ngalakanha Muda – wisdom.”

The last chapter entitled ‘Standing at the Crossroads’ explores the moment in time Australia and First Nations Peoples are at. What of colonisation, racism, self determination and United Nations Rights of Indigenous Peoples – it’s time says Aunty Denise for ‘Reformation’!

This powerful book is a blend of wonderful Adnyamathanha story-telling and wisdom, challenging a fresh thinking from this Adnyamathanha Theologian, and a call for justice for First Nations Peoples within the Church and the nation.

The last word from Aunty Denise: “I don’t think God labels people. Does he? Does she? God doesn’t label anybody! Once you recognise this it brings a lot of freedom to determine for ourselves who we are.”

“In the beginning Arrawatanha (God) created, and nobody’s got a monopoly on that. That’s our identity. Anaditj.”

(This review written by Stuart McMillan, Arraru man, National Consultant: Covenanting, Uniting Church in Australia)

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