5 voices on the Voice
Five pieces of writing from Uniting Church people on the Voice to Parliament
August 2, 2023
The Voice to Parliament continues to be a defining conversation for our nation this year. There is a lot of talk in the public space and a lot of information to process. Across the Uniting Church, many people are giving considered thought to this topic, engaging in respectful and constructive dialogue and discerning how we might be informed by our faith in Jesus. Below we share five pieces of writing from Uniting Church members who have approached the invitation of the referendum from different angles, offering clarifying, reasoned and helpful information and reflecting deeply on the reasons to support a yes vote.
We thank all those making contributions and creating spaces for conversation and deep listening to take place.
An Aboriginal man of Anaiwon/Gomeroi descent
Manager, First Peoples Strategy and Engagement, NSW/ACT Synod
“What can the Australian nation do to reconcile the sins of colonisation? To enable a restored relationship between First Peoples and other Australians, and a hopeful future?”
The Statement from the Heart: Voice + Treaty + Truth
In this presentation originally given at the UAICC National Conference, Nathan Tyson reminds us that the Voice to Parliament is not a recent idea proposed by the current Government, but is a request contained within the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the culmination of a long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples seeking recognition of their rights and their sovereignty. He details clearly the design principles agreed to by the First Nations Referendum Working Group that describe how the Voice will work. Nathan reflects that as Christians we are called to love and be reconciled with one another.
Rev Sharon Hollis
President, Uniting Church in Australia Assembly
“I will vote Yes to a First Nations Voice with the pain, the hope, the joy and the grace of the Uluru Statement ringing in my ears, the long struggle of First Peoples for self-determination lodged in my heart and a longing in my gut for a better, more truthful way to be in these lands.”
The Truth Burns
As part of a feature in the June edition of Crosslight published by the Vic/Tas Synod, President Rev Sharon Hollis reflects on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as nation and as a Church. The President reflects on the truth that burns in the Uluru Statement – that sovereignty has never been ceded and cannot be wiped out by colonisation. She reflects on the truth that First Nations children are removed in too great a number and that their people are disproportionally incarcerated because the system is cruel and unjust. Australia and the Church must learn to listen to First Peoples in their struggle for self-determination.
Board Member of UnitingCare Australia, member of Fairfield Uniting Church
“When it comes to our relationship with the First Peoples of this land, ours is a history of tears, silence and avoidance. This is a referendum that presents a powerful opportunity for us to do what is right and just.”
Reflections on a First Nation’s Voice to Parliament
Mark Dingle reflects on the clear role of justice in the Christian faith. Given the injustices towards First Peoples, changing our constitution to create a more just future is an urgent task for a mature nation. He considers the power imbalance that the Voice proposes to challenge, simply by bringing the voice of First Peoples to government policies and programs in a way that has never been done before. Mark reflects that by updating how we inform our elected leaders with the experience and insight of First Peoples will mean we all benefit from targeted and informed policy design.
Rev Dr Sandy Yule
Member of Wesley Congregation, Melbourne, Victoria
“Christian faith is that God in Christ has called us into a unity of love with each other and with, ultimately, all people. So, the extremely generous offer to walk together as one people in this land through voice, truth and treaty, that is contained in the ‘Statement from the Heart’, seems to me like a simple gospel imperative.”
Yes or No? A personal Statement
Rev Dr Sandy Yule writes in the Wesley Church newsletter Connexion about the referendum as a small but essential step in the reconciliation journey between First and Second peoples in Australia and considers the significant process of consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples which led to the Uluru Statement of the Heart. The advice of the Uluru Statement was not addressed to Government but to the people of Australia, advice which is both generous and achievable. The details of the Voice, he writes, will be a matter for the Parliament after the referendum, and should not deter us from affirming the cultural and historical importance of First Nations voices in our society.
Rev Michael Dowling
Blackwood Uniting Church Minister, South Australia
“In this debate, as we journey toward the Referendum, we need both: we need heart and head; we need emotional sensitivity and we need clarity of thinking; we need to feel and think our way to a collective, national discernment.”
Discussion Paper: The Voice to Parliament
In this 29-page discussion paper shared by the SA Synod, Rev Michael Dowling writes that although the Referendum is a polarising issue in our society, its importance compels us to engage with the issues. Offering an invitation to both those who are leaning to either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, he details how to move beyond media soundbites to engage more deeply with the questions or concerns that have been raised. He considers the arguments that the Voice will be divisive, the claim about a lack of detail, the concern about potential for litigation and why the inclusion of Executive Government is important. Michael concludes that it is important to engage both heart and head as we discern the invitation before us.
Keen to read more?
Rev Michele Lees, Minister, the Echuca Moama Uniting Church, wrote this article published in the Shepparton News, A Christian View on the Voice, https://www.sheppnews.com.au/news/crossroads-a-christian-view-on-the-voice/
Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit 2023 Emerging leaders meet with the nation’s decision-makers to advocate for justiceBy Raúl SugunananthanLast week, the Pacific Australian Emerging Leaders Summit (PAELS) met for a second year running. The Summit gathered 68 young people from the Pacific Islands, the Pacific diaspora living in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities,…
Raise the Age week of action
Raise the Age Support the campaign to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility to keep children in schools and communitiesAustralia imprisons children as young as 10, one of the youngest ages of criminal responsibility in the world. Yet overwhelming evidence from health experts, social workers, Indigenous leaders, legal experts and human rights organisations show that…
Walk for Yes
This weekend thousands of supporters for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum will “Walk for Yes” in events across the country to show there is wide and deep support for a First Nations Voice. The Uniting Church supports the Voice as an opportunity to celebrate the First Peoples of Australia in our…
National weekend of prayer, reflection and meditation
Communities of faith all over the country are invited to participate in a National Weekend of Prayer, Reflection and Meditation from 8-10 September to reflect on and pray for unity and hope in the lead-up to the Voice referendum.“This is an opportunity for us to open your hearts again to what is…
Referendum date announced
Referendum date announced Now is the time to join others in actions to support a Yes to healing and hope. The Uniting Church in Australia welcomes the announcement of 14 October as the date for the referendum on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress National Interim Chair…
Taking action for the Voice
Taking action for the Voice Four ways you can support a Yes vote in the Referendum In the Meanjin oration delivered on Monday night, Indigenous leader Noel Pearson spoke about the long and arduous pathway toward recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that has led to the referendum. But at this critical…
NATSI Children's Day 2023
This Friday 4 August is National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day – a celebration of the strengths and culture of First Nations children. This year’s theme “Little Voices, Loud Futures”, acknowledges that a First Nations Voice would amplify the work being done to ensure First Nations children…
5 UCA voices on the Voice
5 voices on the Voice Five pieces of writing from Uniting Church people on the Voice to Parliament The Voice to Parliament continues to be a defining conversation for our nation this year. There is a lot of talk in the public space and a lot of information to process. Across the Uniting Church,…