As a vote on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament nears, Australia’s bishops have encouraged Catholics to read and discuss the Uluru Statement from the Heart – the document from which the Voice proposal emerged. The annual Social Justice Statement speaks about the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australian society.
As a vote on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament nears, Australia’s bishops have encouraged Catholics to read and discuss the Uluru Statement from the Heart – the document from which the Voice proposal emerged.
During their plenary meeting in Sydney this week, the bishops considered how they might assist Catholics in preparing for the referendum to enshrine the Voice to Parliament in the Constitution, with a vote due in the second half of 2023.
While the bishops – based on a decision they took in May 2022 – will later this year issue their annual Social Justice Statement on the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australian society, they decided to issue a statement (below) at this point in the referendum process.
Bishops issue statement on Indigenous Voice to Parliament
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have lived in this land for many thousands of years. Their custodianship, however, is not recognised in the Australian Constitution. This is an omission which needs to be rectified. A constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament is proposed as a way to achieve this.
We acknowledge that a Voice is not the only possible way of recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in our Constitution, but it is the way requested by those who gathered at the historic meeting at Uluru. This could be a significant step towards a more just and equitable Australia.
The wording to change the Constitution and establish the Voice is currently being discussed. We will soon have the opportunity to examine the precise wording and we will be asked to vote on the proposal towards the end of the year. We want to encourage all Australians to educate themselves as well as possible concerning the proposal to establish the Voice.
This is an important moment in the history of the nation, and it can help us to move towards a deep and just reconciliation. It also offers a mechanism to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
We urge all Australians to engage in the debate productively, respecting each other and accepting that people may, in good faith, have differing concerns and perspectives. We are an open democracy, and this is a moment to use our democratic institutions to produce a high-quality debate shaped by a genuine concern to do justice and bring healing to First Nations Peoples.
We ask those drafting the changes to the Constitution to work together in a spirit of cooperation, so that the proposal presented to the Australian people will appeal to a wide range of the population.
To guide all Australians at this important time, we encourage everyone to read and discuss the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which we endorsed in 2021 and the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia endorsed in 2022.
In particular, we recommend that Catholic parishes, schools and agencies arrange opportunities for people to come together to read and discuss the Uluru Statement.
Access the Uluru Statement at: https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement/view-the-statement/