This year, Australians will be presented with a significant choice on whether to heed the calls of First Nations People and establish an indigenous voice to parliament.
It is regrettable that the Voice referendum which aims to unify our country has become so highly politicised.
Pope Francis has called for the inclusion of input from indigenous people and displaced ethnic groups into the political processes. “Representative bodies are inconceivable when only the dominant power occupies spaces,” he said, suggesting the need to establish a quota system that “reintegrates” historically marginalized groups “into the decision-making space that has been taken away from them.” (National Catholic Reporter)
The Uluru Statement from the Heart speaks about the disempowerment that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have felt since colonisation began. The Voice is an important step in addressing that sense of disempowerment.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and the Plenary Council have all endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Support for the Voice ought not be a passive process, confined to the singular act of voting. We should become active participants in the work to encourage community support for the Yes campaign. Our active participation is also needed in the processes to shape the Voice after the referendum as well as to begin the national response to the calls for truth telling and treaty. It is important for us to be conscious of the need, in all this work, to recognise and support the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the process.
Here in OJEP, we have compiled a list resources and education for all things related to the Voice to Parliament, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart:
Yes23 (also known as “From the Heart”): (https://yes23.com.au/)
Yes23 is the de facto official campaign group for the Yes campaign in the upcoming referendum. They provide regular media and news updates on the Voice, and share resources on ways to share your support of the Voice with others.
Together, Yes (https://togetheryes.com.au/)
Together, Yes is another campaign group organised by the Victorian Women’s Trust. Together, Yes is co-ordinating a national kitchen-table conversations campaign, and will be hosting information sessions throughout April to empower people and organisations to hold these discussions.
The Kitchen-Table conversation model is centred around small group conversations between people with pre-existing relationships, ideal for having conversations with friends, families, neighbours, and people in your parish. For anyone unsure of where to begin, or even how to start conversations on the Voice, Together, Yes is holding a series of training sessions around Australia. For details, please consult their website.
The Uluru Dialogue (https://ulurustatement.org/)
The Uluru Dialogue represents the cultural authority of the Uluru Statement from the Heart and leads community education on the Uluru Statement’s reforms of Voice, Treaty and Truth.
They share resources and provide historical context for the Uluru Statement, which underpins the calls for a Voice to Parliament.
For those wishing to learn more about the Uluru Statement, and the foundational knowledge underpinning why there are calls for a Voice to Parliament, the dialogue is a wonderful starting point.
The question of the Voice will be put to all Australians, many of whom may still be uncertain about what the Voice represents. Many groups across the spectrum will be campaigning during this referendum. However, for each of us, there is a person in our lives that only we can reach; a family member or friend who is prepared to value the things that we hold dear. Who in your life will you have a conversation with?
We all have a duty to understand the issue before us, and to speak up for justice and equality.
There cannot be progress towards Justice for the First Peoples of Australia without a national conversation, and that conversation begins with the people in our lives.
We invite everyone to use the above resources to familiarise themselves with the principles within the Uluru Statement and begin to hold these conversations in their own networks.
Ultra-marathon runner and former Liberal MP, Pat Farmer, begins a run around Australia today to promote support for the Voice. Why not encourage runners in your diocese, parish, school, agency or organisation to join Pat for part of his 14,400 km run around Australia. You could also run an event to coincide with Pat’s run through your diocese or parish. Details about the Run for the Voice, including a link for registering to run with Pat, can be found at runforthevoice.com. Run for the Voice begins today at Hobart Town Hall.