Finding the connection points: Indigenous spirituality

Grant Paulson is an Aboriginal man, the son of a Baptist Minister, a trained clergyman, and a worshipper in the Aboriginal community of Dhiiyaan (Kamilaroi language for family) – where he goes to “top up [his] spiritual reservoir”.

He is working toward a PhD exploring the importance of Aboriginal spirituality and social change. It is this rich heritage and experience that Grant brings to his role as Faith and Development Advisor for World Vision’s Australia Program.

“Radical action, with an attitude of compassion, out of an encounter with our God – the Spirit – Creator,” Grant says are the ingredients for change.

n his work he asks, “What are the fundamentals of community?”

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples view the world from a spiritual lens,” Grant explains. “It can present a mismatch with mainstream worldviews. What is often understood as the sacred-secular paradigm.”

He looks to Micah 6:8 – “to do what is right, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” – to find the connection points.

“As a Christian, and an Aboriginal person of faith, I believe that all people have been made in God’s image. And discovering the connection points is almost like discovering the fingerprints of God… about what makes us unique and special, but what also makes us shared and connected,” says Grant.

“If we put relationships first, demonstrate respect, it leads to opportunities,” he says.

Grant’s work is geared toward enhancing World Vision’s development programming with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. He looks at ways to practically support the spiritual nurture of communities, and to foster sustainable change to improve the wellbeing of children.

The strong partnerships that World Vision shares with Martu, Warlpiri and Young Mob Koori communities encourage him in his work. All the communities are strong in culture and lore, which underpins their support for a faith and development approach that looks at culture, spirituality and two-way learning and community development.

In community development, cultural differences can present road-blocks. Indigenous culture values the sacred – kinship laws, connections to land and mob – whilst mainstream culture values independence, self-reliance and the individual. Grant believes relationships can only blossom once we begin to understand and communicate with one another to overcome differences in order to find our connection points.

“We should look for cross-overs: shared ideas, beliefs, values and actions,” says Grant. It means finding what our universal values are.

“Respect is key,” Grant says. Respect leads to opportunities to create the relationships needed for sustainable development to flourish.

With eyes to see, Grant Paulson is developing a framework to look at and validate spirituality in development, in particular in the Indigenous context in Australia.

You can also partner with our work in Australia. Consider what you can do:

  • Pray for: the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the success of Grant’s work

Apology remembered

This month is the anniversary of The Apology – first delivered by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008. 

We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, traditional owners and custodians of the land. We pay respect to elders – past, present and future – and the Spirit of the one who created us and is with us.

We remember the trauma, loss and separation from family, community, culture and land and especially to those recognised as the Stolen Generations. We pray for healing and recognition. Learn more.