Sacred Spaces: A Journey into Discovery, Truth and Right Relation

As a Kamilaroi woman I wish to acknowledge the research project I am involved in is being conducted in the country of the Worimi, Gamilleroi, Wonarua, Gweagul, Darkinjung, Biripi and Awabakal peoples. I respectfully acknowledge their Elders and their continuing connection to land, water, sea and community.

I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

As a Kamilaroi woman I wish to extend an invitation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics to participate in an empowering research project that seeks to address the lack of Indigenous voices in our Diocese history.

This research seeks to provide a platform for the previously unheard voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in relation to their experiences both past and present with the Catholic Diocese.

This study will provide culturally appropriate Sacred Spaces in which to share our Sacred Stories and allow that which has been previously unheard and unseen to be audible, visible and visceral.

The story of the project

This research project came directly from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry, as we began to explore the creation of our Reconciliation Action Plan in 2019.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry is a collaborative group in the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese. It was established in 1975 and currently meets bi-monthly. Our membership now includes stakeholders from all services within the Diocese including the Catholic Schools Office, Aboriginal Advisers, Aborignal teaching and support staff; clergy, staff and parishioners; and Aboriginal staff members of CatholicCare.

You may recall reading about the Reconciliation Action Plan in the July 2020 edition of Aurora, where it was noted: “A Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is a powerful tool for advancing social change. Organisations that adopt a RAP can influence the attitudes and behaviours of the people who they guide, through either employment or study.”

The RAP process has become the catalyst for a renewed interest in exploring the shared histories and stories of the Diocese and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics.

My story

My initial thirst for knowledge began with the Sisters of St Joseph when I undertook the three-year, part-time Christian Formation Course at Lochinvar. Not long after completing this course, I discovered the University of Newcastle’s Theology degree. From the beginning I was drawn to Aboriginal Studies and made the decision to choose all my elective subjects from this field. It was this initial decision that later allowed me to complete my Bachelor of Aboriginal Studies (Honours). Interestingly, following this initial decision to undertake Aboriginal Studies came the painful discovery and disclosure of my paternal grandfather’s full story, of his Aboriginality, removal, and relocation. To uncover this truth was painful, and it was at the time when my own father was dying and seeking answers. Through my own personal experience and research, I have become aware of what it is like to have your narrative stolen.

In 2017, my Honours research examined my own Aboriginality and spiritualty, which led me in 2019 to enrol in a PhD at Wollotuka at the University of Newcastle to further explore the spiritual heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics in our Diocese.

Would you like to share your story?

In August 2021, I will provide an independent online survey for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics across the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese, to participate in and share their experiences and stories. The link to this anonymous survey will be accessible from the Maitland-Newcastle diocesan website. Please note, only the researchers will have access to the survey and the information contained.

From the initial online survey, I am also seeking a small number of people to participate in a single one-to-one interview.

The outcome of this research will provide valuable information to support the mission of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry in its ongoing efforts to develop and promote a diverse and inclusive Reconciliation Action Plan.

This research will provide a Sacred Space in which our Sacred Stories can be shared, cherished, respected and upheld.

I look forward with great hope and enthusiasm to hearing your stories.


Should you wish to make any enquires about this project, please email:

Jennifer Rumbel or

Principal supervisor Dr Ray Kelly

Jennifer Rumbel is a PhD Candidate at the Wollotuka Institute, at the University of Newcastle. Her research project is funded by the University of Newcastle and a part scholarship from the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese through C H Davis Scholarship.

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Jennifer Rumbel

Jennifer Rumble is a member of the Pastoral Ministries - Aboriginal Catholic Ministry group.

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