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Yakila conference a celebration of progress 

Australia Territory leaders with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders at the Yakila conference.


Over 150 delegates gathered for the Yakila – Walking and Talking Together conference at the Adelaide Hills Convention Centre on 8-11 February.

The gathering was an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Salvation Army personnel to walk alongside each other through truth-telling and prayer.

The event celebrated the completion of the first stage of the national Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and the journey The Salvation Army has taken with First Nations peoples since its launch in 2020. 


“It certainly is a celebration,” reflected Colonel Winsome Merrett. “Over 1200 Salvos gathered together in yarning circles online during COVID, and out of those yarning circles, it was really determined that Salvos had a heart and passion to see things change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, in regard to the disadvantage that they were experiencing. I am incredibly proud to say that because of the leadership of our Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander team and the involvement of large numbers of Salvos across this territory, every single deliverable, all 89 of them, have been actioned and delivered on.”


The first two days of the conference included shared space with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel and Salvationists, with the remaining days inviting non-indigenous personnel and corps members to join.​ Welcome to Country was performed by Major Moogy Sumner (AM), and the opening night hosted a performance by Aboriginal dance group Dusty Feet Mob.

Uncle Vince Ross, a Madi Madi man and The Salvation Army’s convenor of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council, and Territorial Commander Commissioner Miriam Gluyas, brought opening prayers and greetings. 


“What you have to do is go two steps back and see where you’ve come from,” Miriam said, reflecting on thoughts shared by Uncle Vince. “Then you need to go two steps forward and see where you are right now. Today has been an incredible day of thinking through where we are, but we’re not stopping here. We’re going two steps forward again to see all that can be. We are going to believe big and imagine what God will do.”

Shirli Congoo, General Manager of The Salvation Army’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team, facilitated Yarning Circles and reflections. First Nation guest speakers and their subjects included Mark Yettica Paulson (our readiness for truth-telling), Gabriel Bani (Torres Strait Islander cultural worldview), Grant Paulson (sacred drivers for social change), and Professor Anne Patel-Gray (a journey of the vision for First Nations people).

Commissioner Miriam Gluyas, Uncle Vince Ross and Colonel Winsome Merrett cut the RAP cake.

Lucy Davis, Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Strategic Manager for The Salvation Army, presented on the outcomes of the RAP.

“A Reconciliation Action Plan gives your organisation a framework to contribute to the reconciliation movement,” Lucy explained. “Reconciliation Action Plans deliver tangible and substantive benefits to First Nations people and increase cultural safety in the workplace. Reconciliation requires political will, joint leadership and trust-building, accountability and transparency, as well as a substantial investment of resources.”  

“We have one of the most progressive RAPs in the faith-based community.” – Lucy Davis

RAPs consist of five components – race relations, equality and equity, institutional integrity, and historical acceptance. The presentation was followed by a cake-cutting to celebrate, with others joining via livestream from across the country.  

“We have one of the most progressive RAPs in the faith-based community,” Lucy said. “I am so proud of the work we’ve done, but it would never have happened without leadership. If we didn’t have those leaders with us on every step of this journey, our RAP would not have had so much success.”  

The Salvation Army remains committed to transforming individual lives and communities across Australia, with more to come in the next stage of the RAP. Gatherings like Yakila help build an understanding of the practical and spiritual realities of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to better partner together to see a transformed Australia.

The gathering was closed by Uncle Vince Ross, who shared a blessing.  

“May the God of creation warm your heart like the campfires of old, bring wisdom and peace as shown to the First Peoples of this land,” Uncle Vince shared. “Shake off the dust from the desert plain by the flow and washing of the rain and let the light of God show us the right path to take, and stand tall, like the big river gums, drawing life from the ever-flowing waters. Amen.”

Click through the slideshow below for more photos from Yakila.  






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