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A heart for history and hope

24 May 2022

A heart for history and hope

Mary continues to fight for reconciliation and equity for all Australians.

The ongoing work for social justice, equity and understanding 

Words Mary Yarran

I have been married for 40 years and am a mother of three. My father is of both Yindinji and South Pacific Islander heritage. My mother’s family is from Wamba Wamba Country in Victoria, and my mother’s father comes from Ngarrindjeri Country in South Australia. 

I am also thankful for the privilege as a Christian to be working alongside other Christians, continuing the legacy of those who fought for justice before us. 

I think of those like David Unaipon, an Aboriginal man featured on the Australian $50 note. He was an amazing person who made significant contributions and achievements between 1880 and 1920 as a preacher, author, university lecturer and inventor. 

I am very proud to say that he has Ngarrindjeri connections, like my mother’s family. Like so many others, he knew who he was because he knew who God was and that we were all created equal. 


I see working for reconciliation as a relay race. We must take hold of the baton passed on by the heroes who have gone before us and, like them, work for social justice, understanding and equity for our community and future generations. 

For me, there’s none greater than Jesus. He didn’t let things go by, and he didn’t just go with the flow. He stood up against injustice and evil, met people where they were at, and, more importantly, challenged the discriminating social and religious mindset and enforcers of the day. 

I also thank Jesus for the heroes and heroines of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. As a teenager, I had the privilege of meeting Sir Douglas Nicholls. He was an evangelist and made regular visits to little Aboriginal groups living on the fringes of towns. He was also the first and only Aboriginal state governor of South Australia. 

I remember Sir Doug coming to our church youth group. He and other pastors would share the love of God, but they also spoke out about inequality and the plight of our people. 


When I consider the gap that still exists regarding life expectancy, health, education, employment and, sadly, deaths in custody and suicides, despite so many working for equal rights over so many years, I get heavily burdened and frustrated. 

However, I am confident in our present and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and others – specialists in their fields – who are making changes in policies and laws that unfairly disadvantage the disadvantaged. 

Reconciliation is up to every person, every day. We must all continue to be brave and make change, continue to work hard and ‘carry the baton’ until we no longer need to talk about reconciliation or closing the gap because these objectives have finally been achieved. 

This is a challenge for all Australians. 

Mary Yarran is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Coordinator for The Salvation Army Western Australia. 


An invitation in 2020 to join the Salvos in Western Australia on a ‘Reconciliation Trek’ in Pindjarup Noongar Country gave me, at the time a Perth-based teacher, a deeper understanding of their commitment to reconciliation. 

The annual trek, which includes teaching, discussions, a yarning circle and more, takes more than 14 participants on a two-day, 14km walk along the Bibbulmun Track. It is run by Steve and Marenda Freind of The Salvation Army Urban Missions Movement, under the guidance of a local Noongar Elder. 

After being impressed by the interest and engagement of the participants, when I heard about a new role with the Salvos, I successfully applied for the job. In 2021 I joined the trek again – this time as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Coordinator. 

Participating in the trek is just one small facet of my role, which focuses on helping to make West Australian Salvation Army services, churches and other centres culturally safe and welcoming to those with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. More than feeling welcome, we want them connected with our community. 

We are getting there, but there are still barriers to break down on both sides, so my role is also to encourage communication and understanding. 


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