Address by Bishop George Browning

at the 8th Annual Remembrance Ceremony – 27 October 2003

Friends, remembering is one of, if not the most significant characteristic of human beings. We cannot live without the capacity to remember. Most of it happens subconsciously and unknowingly. The rhythm of our lives is dependent upon our remembering.

But there are other attributes of remembering that are very significant. May I remind you of the meaning of the word itself? It means to be “re-membered” – put back together. It is the opposite of “dis-membered” or being taken apart. As we gather together to remember, in one sense we are putting our lives back together again.

As members of this crowd today, we gather around this simple plaque and rock, underneath the tree with all its symbolism of new growth, to remember. Those of you who are parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, family members who have lost loved ones, your remembering is particularly poignant because the loved ones remain in your lives, your life continues to be caught up in theirs. As we come, annually, on birthdays or on other occasions to remember the lives of people who have been lost so tragically, it is important that we continue to deal with our grief, the putting of our lives back together. We come also to cement their lives within the context of the wider community. These young men and women are as significant to us as the young men and women who have lost their lives in warfare, or in other circumstances for which there is an official remembering.

Marion, Bob and Brian have already referred to other aspects of our remembering. The community at large needs to remember in order that it might facilitate, a safer, a more empathetic way of life, so that this list of names does not endlessly grow. In one way or another we must put in place further safeguards to ensure that many other names are not added to the list.

I come to the podium to day with my own remembering of the Church. I am somewhat humiliated and ashamed that at times and in a moralistic way the Church has stood against changes to the laws of our society that might have improved the situation for people in this dreadful situation. I deeply regret that the Church, or agencies speaking for the Church, have stood against what may have been appropriate changes to the law. I am very grateful for courageous people who have undertaken new policies and new programs that have saved the lives of some and made the lives of others more life giving.

The only reason why the Church or the wider community establishes rules is in order that life might be protected and fulfilling for all people; that we might guard against that which destroys or detracts. Rules that have been inappropriately established should be altered. My prayer for the Church, as an influential part of the wider community, is that we might ensure changes take place that facilitate a more healthy community.

I suspect the names that have been read out today come from all walks of life. They are male and female, they are young and not so young, they come from privileged homes and homes at risk. There is no home within Australian society that is immune from the possibility that such a terrible thing could happen to them. It is not a mater of some people being more prone or less prone. It is a difficulty that every single family in the community must face. I am glad to see that members of the police force and ambulance are here today. We are all involved in one way or another.

And so my friends I am glad to be with you today to remember names of people that are precious; precious to one person, precious to many people. All of them are precious to God and all of them must be remembered names within the on-going life of this community. May your being here today help your mourning and in some respect may it help put lives back together again. May our being here today lead us all to lives that enhance the community at large and build a better life for all?

So we give thanks for this beautiful place, for those who have brought us together today and we pray that next time we meet there will not be more names to add to the list. May God be with you today in your remembering, may you find comfort and strength in being here with others; and may the sunshine, the birds and the leaves on the tree be a sign of new life for you all.