Post 5, Aboriginal Australians and Adventists

“Dear Friends,” Dr John Knight wrote in an e-mail on 6 October 2011, “please note November 8 in your calendar — Post Pressed, e-content Management, and noted Indigenous scholar and researcher, Dr Jackie Huggins, will be launching The More Things Change: The origins and impacts of Australian Indigenous exclusion by Dr Rae Norris.”

Knight continues: “This is a superb work of scholarship, in plain language, addressing the institutional and ideological factors which have excluded Indigenous Australians in the past and which continue to inhibit Indigenous progress in the present. The thesis from which it was developed won the inaugural Griffith University Chancellor’s Medal for Ph.D. research in 2007 and she is an Adjunct Research Fellow with the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at the Griffith University.”

And there is more: “Following Rae’s launch, will be the public launching of the ground-breaking Post Pressed and e-content Management series, Contesting Colonialism: Indigenous Knowledge and Indigenous Research by [Indigenous speaker to be advised]. Coordinated by an editorial panel of five leading Indigenous scholars and academics, this series currently includes 15 titles — see attached brochure — and has several more waiting for publication.

“Tuesday, Nov. 8, 6.00 for 6.30 – 9.00 in the Talking Circle at the State Library, Qld. Refreshments, of course. We’ll send an ‘official’ launch invite shortly, but you are definitely invited! Do come, and do spread the word — we really want to make an impact for these significant publications on one of the most important issues facing this nation.”

Now let’s put this book launch in perspective for “thinking believers” who are interested in Adventist Studies. First, we need to ask about Dr Knight and his publishing enterprise, and then suggest why such studies as the one he is talking about may be important for Adventists.

My friend Johnny Knight is an Education Consultant, Adjunct Associate Professor Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology, and Editorial Manager of Post Pressed (see

At the foot of Knight’s e-mail is a statement that typifies his considered stance: “Post Pressed acknowledges the First Peoples of the Countries that are now called Australia. Post Pressed is committed to respect and support Indigenous Sovereignty through the publication of Indigenous Knowledge.”

Dr Knight deserves to retire, if diligence-over-years is a criterion. Instead he continues to foster PhD students and to publish meritorious books that are often unlikely to make Post Pressed or their authors rich. I’ve just looked up his picture in The Jacaranda, 1957, the first Avondale College of Higher Education (that is the present name of the institution) yearbook that attempted to include photographs of every student.

Since then, John distinguished himself as a teacher and principal in Adventist schools before teaching teachers in the Queensland higher education system. I have often cited two of his theses (our American friends usually speak of doctoral dissertations, rather than theses). Dr Knight has examined a number of the significant doctoral studies written by Australian Adventists; his Post Pressed enterprise published Michael Chamberlain’s arresting study about sociological change within Adventism in general and Avondale College in particular.

Donald Horne famously wrote (published 1985) that Australia was settled in “an age when any part of the world whose inhabitants could not fight the Europeans was considered European property.” Since its only indigenous human beings were black, relatively defenseless and seemingly without interest in the presumed benefits of white civilisation, even their existence was discounted to the extent that the vast new land was deemed to be empty.

Jean Wilmington and many other researchers awakened the conscience of Australia to its past. Dennis Steley’s two theses applied such insights to the Adventist experience. Steley did not always receive understanding, even less often was his work applauded, by his faith community. We needed to better hear Dr Gottfried Oosterwal, a pioneer missionary in what was then Dutch New Guinea, and then a professor of mission at Andrews University (Michigan, U.S.A.), as he spurred the Adventist communion to reflect upon how the incarnation of Jesus offers a pattern for Christian mission.

The cover page of the 1 October 2011 issue of Record, “Official news magazine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” carried an impressive photograph of Aboriginal Pastor Johnny Murison as he emerged on the smoke-clouded stage to start a celebration of ethnic diversity in Sydney. The Greater Sydney Conference claims a rich cultural heritage, in that 64 per cent of its members have no Australian roots (Record, page 7).

How good it is that we have the sterling insights and worthy initiatives of people like Johnny Knight and Johnny Murison, helping us to better appreciate the cultures of the First Australians, and indicating how we can support them as they invest their amazing talents in the mission of Jesus Christ.

Arthur Patrick, 8 October 2011