Television journalist Ray Martin is a five-time Gold Logie winner. His stellar career in Australian television began in 1965 when he joined the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) as a cadet and later became one of the founding journalists on Sixty Minutes. He has a long line of credits, including being a New York correspondent for the ABC, and the host of Midday and A Current Affair.
Phil Edwards, CEO of Vision Christian Media, had the privilege of interviewing Ray at the launch of the Forgiveness Cross on Memory Mountain, located near Haasts Bluff in central Australia and 246 km from Alice Springs.
Ray’s Aboriginal Heritage
Ray’s love of the Indigenous community stems from his Aboriginal heritage. His great, great-grandmother was a Kamilaroi from outside Gunnedah in NSW. Ray shared that Haasts Bluff was probably his favourite place in Australia. Apart from television reporting, Ray has a passion for photography. At the launch, he accompanied his good friend of twenty years, landscape photographer Ken Duncan who had an integral role in the Forgiveness Cross project.
‘Earlier on, I had some serious doubts about the Cross, in terms of whether it was wanted locally or whether white fellas were once again giving black fellas a bit of God. I came and spoke to the people, and clearly, they wanted a wad of God,’ said Ray. ‘So I joined the board of Walk A While, and you look down the road, and there’s the Cross, which is amazing. If you were a betting man, you’d have to say it wasn’t going to happen. The black fellas worked with Ken Duncan building it. They worked in 45-degree temperatures, and they took that steel up there and helped build it. There are very few Aboriginal success stories apart from sport, so to get something like this where the community got together and had a dream and to see an Aboriginal dream realised, it’s really important.’
The Forgiveness Cross was a major project costing almost $2 million to build and install the 20 metre high, 2m x 2m wide steel structure with foundations that go 6 metres down the rocky mountaintop. There were permits required and much planning to get the materials from Adelaide.
The Cross of Reconciliation
The Indigenous men and women in the community, including some of the elders, told Ray they’d had dreams of a cross that would bring people together. Not only is it an attraction for Christians to come and see the Cross, but it has become a tourist attraction that will bring income and employment opportunities for the locals.
‘The black fellas who worked with Ken in building it worked in 45-degree temperatures. They took that steel up there, and they helped built it,’ said Ray. ‘They cleared the track and all those things. So, it’s a really good Aboriginal success story, and that’s why I thought it was important that the Prime Minister and others should have come out, which they didn’t.’
While the Prime Minister didn’t attend the launch, Natasha Fyles, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and Chansey Paech, Northern Territory’s Attorney-General, were in attendance.
Ray spoke with Douglas, one of the elders in the community, about the meaning of the Cross. His thoughts were that it’s a place where people might come if they’ve got troubles in their lives or with their families, work or friends. It’s a place surrounded by incredible beauty and peacefulness where they can sit down below the Cross and get their head together.
‘This is just a beautiful country. Breathtaking. And to have something like the Cross out here for people to come out not just to see the Cross, but to come to the art galleries and meet the people,’ said Ray. ‘It’s important for whitefellas to meet black fellas.’
Walk a While With Them
Ray has produced a couple of documentary series that revealed that about six out of ten white Australians have never met an Aboriginal person. While people make judgements about Indigenous communities from sensational news headlines about the trouble in Alice Springs or Darwin, they have no idea of what’s really going on behind the scenes because they have never visited these places or met these people who, in reality, are living in poverty.
‘Poverty tends to lead to dysfunction in communities and crime and civil crime. And that’s what happens in these communities that are riddled by poverty. I mean, the diseases and the problems they’ve got are problems of poverty,’ said Ray. ‘Until we accept the fact that that’s what the trouble’s about, then we can never fix it. And the Cross bringing people out, bringing white fellas, is clearly important to blackfellas out here who have a deep faith. But it’s more important, I think, for white fellas to have a reason to come out and begin to understand what makes these fellows tick.’
These days, Ray is continuing to make documentaries and take photographs. He’s currently released an SBS documentary on Outback Queensland and will release a three-part series for the BBC later this year.
To hear Ray’s full interview with Phil Edwards, click on the link below: