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Byron Shire
January 26, 2022

Comment: the peace and joy of Christmas

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Comment: Welcome to the Byron Bay family law dilemma – Jesus wept

In spring 2013, Mary and Joseph bought a house in Suffolk Park for $500,000.

Christmas has always been a special time, and it holds some wonderful memories of early years, when youthful exuberance shaped my world, and it’s a time remembered for the happiness of family gatherings and the sound of kids waking early to see what Santa had delivered.

We rarely had Christmas trees in the early days, but the joy was contagious, especially when family and friends arrived to share in the act of giving and the world as we knew it was safe and happy because we were surrounded by family and loved ones.

Like all kids, I enjoyed receiving toys and other gifts, what kid doesn’t?

As a widow, mother lived on a pension which she augmented by taking in washing and ironing for various white families in our community.

Mother often struggled to provide Christmas presents for the family, but she was always able to manage, somehow, because I can’t ever recall a Christmas when we didn’t get something.

It was years after the trauma of losing my father in the boating accident of 1950 before mother took another partner.

A new man came into our lives, a wonderful man who took on the role of spouse and step-father; this was the time when toys such as bikes and other gifts found their way under the tree.

I remember one Christmas, in our shanty town, when it was discovered that toys and other presents were being delivered and distributed to Namoi Village, the Aboriginal reserve on the other side of the river.

The kids in our little group would have missed out in sharing in this act of Christmas joy if it wasn’t for our Aunty Lucy.

Aunty Lucy Lyons was from Narrandera and arrived in Walgett many years earlier with a droving outfit.

After arriving, she met and fell in love with my mother’s brother, uncle Tom Hickey and settled down to raise a family.

Discovering that Christmas toys and other gifts were being distributed at Namoi Village, Aunty Lucy collected a washing tub and swam across the river to fill the tub with presents for all the kids in our shanty town.

Aunty Lucy was Santa for us that year.

One of the best Christmas toys I ever received was a homemade billycart, and the fact that most of my mates also woke to billycarts meant that there must have been serious talk between the families. The carts kept us busy for weeks.

The local chemist and his wife were missionaries and ran Sunday School for Aboriginal kids from the community, and I joined other kids as we learnt about the scriptures.

I always felt a connection to religion, and in my early teens I attended church sessions with a white family who had befriended me, but actions by local white people shook my faith in religion. Or more accurately, my faith was shaken by some of those who proclaim to be good Christians, but instead act contrary to their faith and its teachings.

Professor Bob Morgan is a Gumilaroi man from Walgett in western NSW. Photo supplied.

Around this time, one of our local priests became very active in supporting the struggle for Aboriginal rights and freedoms in our town, and he attended various community meetings and was vocal about the need for change.

But his actions drew the attention of some of the ‘leaders’ in the white community, and after they complained to the church’s hierarchy about his actions he was transferred to another community.

This incident didn’t completely turn me away from my faith, and my sense of spirituality, but it did lay bare the hypocrisy of some people who make claims to being good and decent Christians, but who seem to be filled with so much hate and bigotry.

I’ve never viewed Christianity, or any other faith, as being flawed, just some of those who claim to be Christians.

But this is a time of Christmas; a joyous time when we pray for peace on Earth and goodwill between all humanity, irrespective of which church we belong to, or in fact whether we belong to any church at all.

But amidst this joy I also struggle with the way in which Christmas has become overly commercialised and viewed by some as yet another opportunity to embrace materialism and just another holiday.

There’s something missing in this scenario and perhaps this is the way of the new world and old dinosaurs like me can rest and reflect on our journey whilst leaving the future to current and future generations. However, before my days are done, I plan to do whatever I can to ensure that the world is a better place than the world I inherited.

‘Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!’ – Hamilton Wright Mabie

Professor Morgan is a Gumilaroi man from Walgett in western NSW. He is a highly respected and acknowledged Aboriginal educator and researcher.

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  1. Christmas is time for family and The Family is the backbone of the nation because with family there is connection. Each person is connected by blood by love by emotion and by the genes that made that person. Whether you are female of XX or male of XY chromosomes, there is something that is binding at Christmas time. It is the warmth of the heart of your parents. “Hi dad, Hi mom”.
    The bond is that the family is related in the immediate family or in the extended family and the genes are passed on from grandparents to parents to grandchild. Tradition is handed down from the past to the present, to the future. It is traditional to have a Christmas pudding and to share that pudding. The pudding came from the 14th century and the recipe has changed but has been handed down from family to family every since at Christmas.


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