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Dreaming in the City


The Jubilee theme of Recognition challenges all of us.

Since its beginnings in 1988, the members of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Melbourne (ACMM) have sought to express their Catholic/Christian faith in culturally relevant ways. In the light of John Paul II's words in Alice Springs: 'Go to God through your own culture', and in an endeavor to bring the two ways Aboriginal way and Christianity together, this has been, in the life of the ACMM community, an ongoing process of reclaiming and discovery.

Praying the Rosary Aboriginal way has resulted in a reflective process of painting and story telling which links the Gospel stories upon which this traditional form of prayer is based, with the historical and contemporary experience of urban Aboriginal people. It is an expression of one aspect of what we call 'city dreaming'.

Along with the paintings and the reflections in this brochure we have included the five step process we use when, as a community, we gather to relive and retell these stories.

In the spirit of Jubilee and on the occasion of our tenth birthday, the members of the ACMM invite you, the wider Catholic community, to become part of our story and struggle, by participating in this process.

Vicki Walker
ACMM Coordinator


Praying the Rosary Aboriginal Way

(We have chosen to pray three of the stories, one Happy, one Sad and one Wonderful instead of the traditional five stories, as this way reflects the full experience of our lives.)


Leader welcomes group and explains why meeting is taking place. (To grow strong among ourselves as we talk and pray together about the things that matter to us.)


We read together three scripture stories: one Happy, one Sad and one Wonderful. We pause for brief reflection before reading the next story. Many of you have been a part of this ongoing process. Over the past ten years you have supported us in our work. I wish to recognize your contribution and to thank you.


Do we have stories like these? Dreaming stories or stories of today? What do these stories remind us of? Are there any connections running through these stories?

Rosary beads crafted from giant gum nuts donated by Rick and Colleen Harney. Cross is Australian timber, wresting on an Aboriginal Flag.


In what ways are these stories asking us to stay strong today?


As we pray we think about all we have shared together.

Sign of the Cross

I belong to the Father
I belong to the Son
I belong to the Spirit.


Aboriginal Our Father

Our Father you are in Heaven
May we talk about your name in a good way.
May you be boss in our lives.
May we follow your feeling here
As they do above.
Give us bread today.
We have hurt your feelings, feel sorry for us.
Others have hurt our feelings
We feel sorry for them.
Stop us from doing wrong
Save us all from the evil one.

Hail Mary

Hello Mary,
You are truly good in your heart
You are with the Lord.
Of all women you are truly good
Good is your Son, Jesus.
Good Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us when we have done wrong
Right now and when we fall down.


Praise the Father
Praise the Son
Praise the Spirit
Praise them Three in One.

(Written by Bidydanga Community, Kimberley )

Rosary reflection

Happy Stories

The story begins with a young Jewish girl who, during the period of her waiting to go to her promised husband, becomes pregnant. Mary was a special young girl who kept the law well when, without warning, a Spirit Messenger came to her. "Hello, Mary! Don't be frightened. I have come with a great message for you. It is time for the special one promised by the God of your ancestors to come into the world. This child is to come for all clans and all peoples, to show them how to find their way back to the Creator and their true country".

When the Spirit Messenger told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant Mary decided to visit her because she was a wise and respected elder. On arriving she found that the Spirit had given her cousin the knowledge of her child. Mary sang a song, one that came from deep within her, an ancient song passed on from one of her ancestors of long ago. Mary's promised husband grew to understand that her child was the one the wise ones in his culture had been telling his people about for many generations. He knew that he was to be named Jesus.

When Mary's baby was born, the story was first told in the stars. Aboriginal understanding of the movement of the stars through the evening sky is profound. The presence of particular stars or groups of stars at certain times gave information about food sources, ceremonial events, reinforcement of moral issues. The Wandjina of the Kimberleys are very well known and important sky figures. The Creator Spirit of Western Victoria, Bunjil, is, present in and watching his people from the star Altair.

Soon after the child Jesus was born, he was taken to a special place to be presented for a ritual blessing. We recognise in this event some aspects of Aboriginal birthing rites. A mother takes her newborn baby to a special place and performs a ritual of great importance established by each group's own law. Natural symbols of water, oil, ashes, wind, earth and smoke are used. A birthing ritual creates within the child a deep inner sense of place, belonging and identity within family and community.

Some time later when Mary and Joseph were travelling home from a special ceremonial gathering, Jesus could not be found. They searched among their clan groups but he was not there. Days later they found him sitting with the elders and lawmen, talking deeply with them about law and culture. The elders were surprised at his knowledge. They recognised that he was ready to be initiated into the beginning of his spiritual journey as a young man. Going away from family is the beginning of Aboriginal initiation too. These times are not without pain mingled with joy for both family and child, as the experience leads to strength and growth.

Sad Stories

As time went on and Jesus began travelling through his country telling stories to those who were able to listen to him, some skilled clever fellas became jealous of his special power in healing people. These clever ones began thinking about getting rid of him.

Our people know a lot about these clever ones, the Kadaitcha, who have an evil spirit in them and have power to harm others. They are cunning and make it hard sometimes for people to recognise the bad spirit in them. The people have to listen and watch very carefully. These sorts of people can bring great trouble among the family groups.

In his heart Jesus knew what these evil ones were up to and felt afraid of the terrible things that could now happen to him. Taking some of his close friends with him, he went to a quiet place to be still and share his deep pain with the Creator Spirit. Like his mother before him, he listened deeply and said his yes to the Creator's plan. A Spirit Messenger came to give him the strength he needed.

Jesus now began his walk through the schemings of a false trial, followed by a beating, being mocked, ridiculed and crowned. He then suffered the agony and physical pain of carrying a cross. His final humiliation was to be stripped and to die in shame.

Aboriginal women would identify strongly with Mary as she stood at the cross. How many times have they faced the soul destroying pain and humiliation of seeing their sons mocked, abused, subjected to demoralizing interrogation, tried by unfair laws, chained, beaten and thrown into jail? Many of these sons are so broken in spirit they finally end up taking their own lives.

It seemed now that all was ended. The chosen friends who had walked and listened to Jesus were a very sad and disillusioned group. They were also afraid of what could happen to them. They stayed together hiding in a quiet place till things settled down.

Wonderful Stories

In the next part of the Rosary story we learn that sad and sorry times do not last forever. If we listen strongly to the Jesus Dreaming law very special Spirit times can occur. The great Creator Spirit sent Jesus to tell us the greatest story of all. It is a simple yet powerful story, one that says that if we believe his law of love and keep it strong, just as we kept the old law, we will not die forever but will live again.

Jesus spoke first to the women, telling them to go at once to his close friends and followers with this good news. Of course, some did not believe the women. Then Jesus himself came to his friends, talking and eating with them.

Finally, Jesus returned to his own true country with the Creator. He told his friends and followers not to worry. They would not be left alone. The Spirit would come who would stay with them always. Again they waited together till the special ceremony time the Jewish people called Pentecost. This was a time of thanks for good seasons and plenty of food.

Mary stayed with the followers of the New Way for many years until it was time for her to go to her true Dreaming place with the Creator and her son Jesus. She is the mother of God.


© Copyright Elizabeth Pike 1997.


Happy Stories

Maria Galea is a descendant of the Gunditjmara people. She has three children, lives in the Fitzroy area and is unemployed. Maria suffers from the effects of long term drug abuse. This series of paintings observes that there is something shining in Maria's insights, revealed in her paintings of events associated with the birth of Jesus.


 1. Mary is an ordinary girl. Her people have been waiting a long time. She is a bit worried and needs an explanation. Her belief brings great happiness. This painting shows Mary's womb rich with her blood for her baby. The serpant is a sign of life and fertility.
Native Title legislation could be seen as God entering into Aboriginal people's lives just as He entered into the lives of the Jewish people.
 2. Mary rushes to see Elizabeth. They are cousins. Mary sings an old song and her baby jumps with gladness. Both women believed. The spirit is strong in both of them.
Mothers and children are very close. Taking children away not only separates their bodies but also separates their spirits. Then they are without joy.
 3. After a lot of trouble, Mary has her baby in someone else's place. They are poor but happy. The whole of creation is happy.
Some Aboriginal people are born outside with animals close by. Many Aboriginal people have been born in places far away from their own country.
 4. This story is about the beginnings of life. Jesus' parents kept the law. They took him to the Jewish elders in the temple. Aboriginal people want their children baptised 'good one way'. Often, Aboriginal children are baptised with a Smoking Ceremony.
 5. Jesus is talking with the elders. Both His questions and His answers show that He is wise.
Aboriginal children are taught to listen and to ask questions indirectly. They want to know whether things are right just as Jesus did. The tracks in this painting show Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus.


Sad Stories

Doug Smith is a descendant of the Mutthi Mutthi tribe of Lake Mungo area of south west N. S.W. He has been the Outreach worker with the ACMM since 1992. Doug's paintings represent the suffering and death of Jesus.


 6. Jesus is lying in the garden. He is feeling despair. His mind and body are in agony. He is helpless.
Australia is in despair: deaths in custody, people dying too early, children overdosing. The cost of new life is very high.
 7. Jesus is carrying the suffering of the people He was close to. He is being treated like the woman who was stoned.
Aboriginal people are taken into custody and beaten up for fun. This story reminds us of the pictures of our people in chains
 8. The soldiers make fun of Jesus. He is alone. There is no escape. He was mocked because he told the truth. He really was a King.
Many of our people are caught in situations where there is no escape. Often at these times, they are alone and they feel a great deal of shame. They are shamed liked Jesus was shamed
 9. The cross that Aboriginal people carry, is the colour of our skin. Our children carry the same cross.
The early settlers were like the soldiers who led Jesus. They sent the Aboriginal people away, making them refugees in their own country.
 10. Jesus was killed because He was a good man. This painting shows a tree which has been ring barked. The sap pouring out of the tree is the blood of our people pouring out of their veins. Trees with sacred significance have been cut down. Jesus did not need to die; neither do the trees.
What legitimised the death of Jesus legitimised the death of Aboriginal culture? Many Aboriginal peoples' lives have been stopped but there is always hope



Lorraine Nelson is a Victorian Koorie, one of the Stolen Generation Children. She is the single mother of three children, who lives in the western suburbs. Lorraine is unemployed. Marg Hill describes her as an 'extraordinarily gutsy women who is very determined to paint'. Lorraine 's paintings represent the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Spirit.


 11. When the women went to Jesus' grave, He was gone. Then they remembered. They were very excited and went to tell the others. They didn't believe them and in a hurry, they went to see for themselves.
The Assimilation Inquiry could lead to new life as people begin to reclaim their identity.
 12. Jesus' friends were not frightened after He went away. They were strong in their faith.
Our people have known joy in suffering and happiness in hard times. Through faith we can stay strong like our deceased members, Richard and Eleanor.
 13. The spirit comes when we are around the fire with our families and the animals and the wind and the stars. There is a sense of mystery, a feeling of not knowing what's ahead but the earth and the people are open to the Spirit.
Reconciliation is like this. The Spirit brings a spirit of acceptance. If we can accept each other, our fears will be overcome and a future will open up for all of us.
 14. Mary had the strength to survive, and the strength to believe. When she died she was with Jesus again.
This story is about the end of life. It is about surviving.
 15. Mary was crowned because she is the mother of Jesus.
This story is like a dreaming story. All of creation is present. There is pain in the story but also hope. The moon gave Mary strength. The stars were her guiding light.