The National Council of Australia of the St Vincent de Paul Society supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart including Constitutional Recognition and The Voice to Parliament. Our position mirrors the Australian Catholic Bishops and advances the principles of Catholic social justice.
Our position mirrors the Australian Catholic Bishops and advances the principles of Catholic social justice.
Since 2007, successive Prime Ministers promised to advance reconciliation and recognition of Australia’s First Nations peoples. The parliamentary history on Constitutional Recognition is long, with a referendum being supported back in 2015 by then Chair of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, the Hon. Ken Wyatt AM MP.
The upcoming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament will be an historic event. There will be ongoing discussion and debate, and both sides will put forward their arguments. There will be diverse opinions and no doubt disagreements. As a democratic society, people are free to form their own views and inform themselves of the issues.
The St Vincent de Paul Society’s Position on Constitutional Recognition
The Society has a long history of advocating in support of Constitutional Recognition. Our position is not new.
In 2000, the Society developed Seeking a Shared Spirit, a social justice paper in support of Indigenous Reconciliation following on from Pope John Paul II’s apology to Australia’s First Nations peoples. The Society supported Constitutional Recognition in 2013 in response to the 2012 Constitutional Recognition Bill. This support was reiterated in 2014, in response to the 2014 Senate Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. In 2021, the Society’s position on The Voice was outlined in response to the Australian Government’s Indigenous voice co-design interim report. In 2022, the Society outlined its position in our Federal Election Statement, A Fairer Australia. And in 2023, the Society launched its updated policy paper on Australia’s First Nations peoples during Reconciliation Week.
How does the St Vincent de Paul Society determine its advocacy position?
With over 45,000 members and volunteers, processes have been put in place to obtain feedback and reach agreement on policy and advocacy matters, from the conference level up.
We are a membership-based organisation. Our members come from diverse levels of society. National Council consists of each State and Territory President and meets at least four times per year to discuss the Society’s operations and directions including governance, finance, risk and, importantly, advocacy. Advocacy is based on policy agreed to by National Council.
On advocacy matters, National Council is advised by National Council Social Justice Advisory Committee (NCSJAC) and the Vincentian Refugee Network. The NCSJAC comprises social justice representatives from the states and territories and meets at least three times per year. Social justice representatives are a conduit for information sharing on all social policy matters, from conferences to regional and state councils up. They raise issues of concern in their jurisdictions and provide evidence-based advice to National Council that reflects the membership’s views, Vincentian values, and principles of Catholic Social Teaching (pdf file).
How is the Society’s position consistent with the message of Blessed Frederic Ozanam?
We advocate on a wide range of social concerns that align with our charitable purpose and the original mission of Blessed Frederic Ozanam.
In supporting the Voice to Parliament, the Society is inspired by Ozanam’s Catholic solidarity with citizens who are vulnerable, and to create a more compassionate society.
During the lifetime of Frederic Ozanam (the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul) he experienced a world in which war, poverty, and politics ignored the suffering of the most vulnerable. In the age of post-revolutionary France and the Napoleonic wars, France had developed a strongly anti-religious intellectualism that viewed Catholicism with contempt.
As a brilliant university student and academic, Ozanam debated non-religious scholars. He faced strong intellectual opposition to his arguments. This criticism questioned Catholicism itself arguing it offered nothing to society, particularly the poor. For Ozanam, he rejected these criticisms. He not only argued his case, he also actively helped the poor and vulnerable of Paris.
For the gospel ideals of faith, hope, love, and compassion to inspire a more just society, good works had to be a true demonstration of solidarity with the poor and vulnerable. The Society has a long history of assisting people living in poverty, as well as supporting people seeking asylum, people experiencing domestic violence, people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and those living with disability or health issues. We also advocate strongly in these areas for change. Such positions are consistent with Ozanam’s founding principles and with Catholic Social Teaching. We believe in human dignity and the common good.