Michele Madigan is a Sister of Saint Joseph who has been involved with Aboriginal people in South Australia for about 40 years.
She has ministered in Port Adelaide, in the bush, and most recently has worked in the Murraylands, East of Adelaide for nearly 20 years.
Sr Michele is also involved with the SA Reconciliation Circle, an ecumenical initiative of the Sisters of Saint Joseph that has promoted reconciliation with First Nations people for 17 years.
“The biblical idea of reconciliation is what we are about,” Sr Michele said.
“God does not have to be reconciled to us, we need to be reconciled to God and work. We have to action God’s teaching by which Jesus came to earth to set an example, and to do it by justice and working for the good, especially the poor.”
On the initiative of the Reconciliation Circle in late 2020, the Sisters of Saint Joseph decided to formulate a Reconciliation Action Plan using Reconciliation Australia’s framework.
Sr Michele believes “the RAP gives some accountability and ways to move forward, including ways that the Sisters can put their 1999 apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples more clearly into focus.”
It also helps in “taking practical action and understanding the causes of things, not just what comes out at the end of disposition and poverty, and ways that might seem alien [to white Australians].”
For Sr Michele the 2021 NAIDOC Week theme, “Heal Country”, goes to the heart of her ministry, which has involved campaigning and lobbying against environmental destruction to Aboriginal land through fracking, radioactive waste dumping and other industrial practices.
“As always, thank goodness, it’s Aboriginal people that are at the forefront of everything!” she said.
“We would like people to know more about the land, the waters and everything which Aboriginal people know full well, calling it ‘sweet country’.”
“We are lucky that we have First Nations people. Where would Australia be environmentally without the knowledge of the First Nations people? They know the land so well and ways to preserve it, which is what we need for all our sakes.”