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Theologian in Residence

The ACD & Uniting College, together with the Centre for Aboriginal Spirituality, is delighted that Rev. Dr. Auntie Denise Champion has been appointed as Theologian in Residence.


This is a fractional faculty appointment (.4), and it supports her for a two year period to focus on her theological vision and work. As the Theologian in Residence, she participates in the life of the College – formally and informally. This deepens the College community’s engagement in covenanting, and is transforming its sense of what it means to know God and follow Jesus on Aboriginal land. She continues to be based in Port Augusta, and is generally in Adelaide one week a month.


With the support of the Principal, faculty and resources of UCLT, the Theologian in Residence will be engaged in the following activities:

  • Developing and conducting a personal program of study and research into Aboriginal spirituality, wisdom and history.

  • Consulting with First Nations theologians within Australia and internationally.

  • Producing works of Christian theology from an Aboriginal perspective (such as books, articles or artwork, spoken work delivered as lectures, videos or podcasts, or collaborative work such as dialogues, workshops or Walking on Country).

  • Participating in the life of UCLT as a member of the faculty.

  • Liaising with the UAICC regional and national councils, and with the Centre for Aboriginal Spirituality.

Aunty Denise's most recent book Anaditj was launched in 2021. For more information please click here

In order to contact Rev. Dr. Auntie Denise Champion,

please contact Tarlee Leondaris,

Aunty Denise cropped.jpg
The Centre for Aboriginal Spirituality

Yarthu Apinthi, Kaurna Land (Adelaide Plains, South Australia)

The Centre for Aboriginal Spirituality was formed in 2018 as a covenanting activity of the Mission and Leadership Development Board. It was a response to the initiative of leaders of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) in South Australia who have a vision for a dedicated resource that honours and nourishes Aboriginal Christian spirituality and theology for the sake of that reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation.


The Covenant between the Uniting Church in Australia and the UAICC (1994) includes the admission from the church:


“My people did not hear you when you shared your understanding and your Dreaming. In our zeal to share with you the Good News of Jesus Christ, we were closed to your spirituality and your wisdom.”


In the light of this, the Purpose of the Centre is:


To hear Aboriginal people share their understanding and Dreaming and to be open to Aboriginal spirituality and wisdom.


This includes hearing the stories of Aboriginal spirituality prior to and subsequent to colonisation in 1788 and “encouraging the expression of Christian theology from the perspective of Aboriginal and Islander culture” (Regulation 3.2.2 (d)).


The Centre engages in and encourages particular activities:


  • The Centre for Aboriginal Spirituality has a focus on the Gospel/culture dynamic with particular sensitivity to post-colonial criticism and contextualization

  • It is oriented to providing tools for Aboriginal Christian leaders to do their own theological reflection.

  • It encourages mentoring relationships to help Aboriginal theologians to write down or otherwise express their theological insights.

  • It seeks develop networks of indigenous theologians.

Some key initiatives of the Centre are:

  1. The appointment of an indigenous Theologian in Residence.

As an expression of the Centre’s purpose, an Aboriginal theologian will be set apart for a period to be supported while they focus on their theological vision and work, with access to the support of the UCLT faculty and the resources of the College as. The participation of the Theologian in Residence in the life of the College – formally and informally – is also a way of deepening the College community’s engagement in covenanting, and transforming its sense of what it means to know God and follow Jesus on Aboriginal land.

  2. First and Second Peoples 'Writers' Retreats

The first retreat was held at Nunyara Conference Centre, SA, from Oct. 14-23, 2019. Current and emerging indigenous leaders from various parts of Australia gathered together at Nunyara in the Adelaide Hills over a ten day period to work on projects at the interface between indigenous theology, storytelling and leadership. A parallel gathering of non-indigenous educators took place at the same time and venue, but with a separate meeting space. These two gatherings were mutually resourcing.  Twenty one participants from around Australia and ten visitors participated.

The work that was done over the ten days of this dual retreat was collaborative, both between indigenous leaders, and across the two groups. It was also individual, as it involved various individual projects in indigenous culture, theology, storytelling and leadership.


A second retreat for indigenous leaders was held at Nunyara in March 2021. The focus of this was a workshop on Decolonizing Genesis. Prof. Emeritus Norman Habel and Dr. Anne Pattel-Gray presented their ongoing work in this area, and gained feedback from the gathered indigenous leaders.


A third retreat is planned for October 2021, also at Nunyara. This will be primarily for indigenous leaders, and will begin with an experience of Walking on Ngarrindjeri Country. For further information, contact Rev. Dr. Vicky Balabanski,

  3. The book launch of Rhanee Lester’s book Walking to Corroboree.

Details for this release can be found here

Rev Dr Aunty Denise's Commissioning Service - 7th of June 2021

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