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First Nations now included in prayer for Australia – The Australian Jewish News



THE Great Synagogue recently made an amendment to its prayer for Australia recognising First Nations people following a speech delivered by human rights lawyer George Newhouse.

Rabbi Ben Elton said he and the synagogue board were moved to make a small but telling change.

“The prayer previously included the Queen, Governor General, state Governors, Prime Minister and Premiers, and we’ve inserted the elders of the First Nations peoples,” Rabbi Elton said.

“In a separate paragraph we pray for all Australians … that we should live together with justice and equity.”

Newhouse, who is the principal solicitor of the National Justice Project, recently delivered the Earle Hoffman Oration about the relationship between First Nations and Jewish communities.

In it, he called on the Australian Jewish community to use its power to help make societal change by taking a stand in solidarity.

“Jewish institutions and media are extremely effective in attacking antisemitism wherever it raises its ugly head – and we should commend them for this – but unless there is a swastika involved, they too often seem strangely silent when First Nations peoples are victims of systemic prejudice, racist attacks and vilification almost daily.

“Although Jewish leadership and communal bodies participate in symbolic initiatives like “reconciliation” and “multiculturalism” and some have expressed support for the Uluru Statement, many Jewish leaders believe that articulation of these principles alone contributes to our relationship with First Nations peoples. But where is the Jewish-led advocacy to expose and end the systemic racism which is a cause of much disadvantage?”

Newhouse continued to call on the leaders of the Jewish community to step up and actively confront “systemic racism in partnership with First Nations people”, while urging people to educate themselves.

“Engaging as an individual is an easy first step,” Newhouse said.

“Be curious, seek out First Nations voices and perspectives in film and television, books, galleries, the media. Read books written by First Nations people.”

Meanwhile, Newhouse’s National Justice Project has launched Call it Out, a First Nations racism register. It’s based on the work that the Jewish community does through ECAJ and its annual report on antisemitic acts, which was a model followed by the Islamic community.

The digital platform will enable First Nations people to securely report experiences of interpersonal and institutional racism so that the true story of racism in Australia may be told.

“We hope the stories reported through Call it Out will make the colonial legacy of racism harder to ignore,” Newhouse said.

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