The Second Annual John Saunders Lecture
Australia –whose land?
Presented by Dr Peter Adam
Principal, Ridley College, Melbourne
Monday 10 August 2009
The John Saunders Lecture is an initiative of the Baptist
Union of NSW Social Issues Committee and seeks to address
contemporary social and ethical issues in Australia from a
scholarly evangelical perspective.
The Revd John Saunders (1806-1859) was an evangelical
Christian with a missionary heart, a keen intellect, a gift for
public speaking, and a passion for Christian social
responsibility. He is best known for his temperance work and
his advocacy for justice for the Aborigines.
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak on this important issue, one of the great issues facing
Australia. I am not an expert, and to not speak from first-hand experience of the human suffering
that lies within the question. I am in danger of speaking glibly in the face of an immense tragedy
which has engulfed Australia since 1788, and in the face of the ongoing effects of that tragedy
still present all around us.
However, what I am saying needs to be said, and I want to encourage Christians to take
leadership in these matters.
I ask forgiveness from those indigenous people present here tonight for whom these matters are
immeasurably and constantly painful. I assure you of my deep respect for you and for your full
human dignity as men and women made in the image of God. I want to honour you and your
people tonight. I hope that nothing I say will offend you or hurt you. I want this lecture to express
the duty and debt of love that I owe you.
Our question is, ‘Australia – whose land?’
1. Australia is God’s land, given to the indigenous peoples of this land.
In his book The Discarded Image,
C. S. Lewis points to the immense contrast between the ways
in which a person in Medieval Europe thought about the universe, and the ways modern people of
the West think about the universe. He pictures a Medieval person g