A powerful coalition of national religious and ethno-religious organisations has sent a joint open letter to all federal parliamentarians today, calling on politicians to cooperate across political divides in support of the upcoming Voice referendum.
The influential alliance of nine national organisations, representing diverse Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish communities, has thrown its collective weight behind the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Their letter (found below) builds on the joint resolution released by the group in May last year, which urged bipartisan action on the Voice referendum.
Signatories to the letter are:
- Bishop Charles Gauci, ACBC Chair of Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
- Bishop Chris McLeod, National Aboriginal Bishop, Anglican Church of Australia
- Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamad, Grand Mufti of Australia, Australian National Imams Council
- Ven. Tenpa Bejanke, Chair, Australian Sangha Association
- Ms Jillian Segal AO, President, Executive Council of Australian Jewry
- Mr Prakash Mehta, President, Hindu Council of Australia
- Revered John Gilmore, President, National Council of Churches in Australia
- Sardar Ajmer Singh Gill, President, National Sikh Council of Australia
- Reverend Sharon Hollis, President, The Uniting Church in Australian Assembly
This open letter follows the Plenary Council and Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference endorsement of the Uluru statement from the Heart in 2021 which was informed by the words of St John Paul II to First Nations People during his trip to Alice Springs in 1986 “Your culture, which shows the lasting genius and dignity of your race, must not be allowed to disappear… Your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, your languages, must never be lost.”
Bishop Vincent recently commented on the Referendum during his homily on 29 January 2023 “the Catholic Church, at its synodal gathering called the Plenary Council, endorsed the Uluru Statement and the Voice to Parliament as part of our mission to shape a more just and compassionate society. It recognises that we can be a better society by walking alongside with our First Nations people and enabling them to take their rightful place at the table,” he said.
Open letter to federal parliamentarians on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum, Wednesday 22 February 2022
As leaders of Australia’s major religious and ethno-religious organisations, we call on Australia’s political leaders and all federal parliamentarians to support the Voice, called for by First Nations Australians through the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Unlike Canada, the United States and New Zealand, Australia has no formal bilateral arrangements in place with First Nations people, a state of affairs that is incompatible with our vision of Australia as a place of fairness for all.
We call on parliamentarians to find ways to collaborate constructively across political divides to achieve the modest constitutional recognition First Nations people seek: a constitutionally guaranteed Voice in their own affairs.
The Voice is an invitation to move towards national healing, unity and reconciliation. It seeks to formalise in our Constitution a way by which First Nations’ voices and concerns can be heard, and to establish a means for overcoming the devastating effects of social exclusion. This is an opportunity to unite Australians around a proposal that seeks to make life better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Last year, we came together on the fifth anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart to issue a Joint Resolution to encourage Australians to support this change:
Joint Resolution on the Uluru Statement from the Heart
On this day in 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples came together at Uluru and asked Australians to walk with them towards a better future.
Through the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Indigenous Australians asked for constitutional recognition through a constitutionally guaranteed voice in their own affairs.
As leaders representing diverse religious communities, we declare our support of the Uluru Statement and its call for a First Nations Voice guaranteed by the Constitution.
We endorse this reform as necessary, right and reasonable.
Indigenous Australians must be now afforded their rightful place in the Australian Constitution. There have been many processes and much work completed. The one thing left to do is let the Australian people have their say.
We call on political leaders to take immediate bipartisan action to hold a referendum on a First Nations voice.
We draw upon our diverse traditions, beliefs and cultures to unite in support of this just cause. We respectfully ask our political representatives to do the same. We call on our fellow Australians to consider the Voice proposal on its merits, and for whatever information is needed to inform the community to be supplied promptly. Future generations of Australians will not forgive us if we fail to grasp the historical moment, and ‘advance Australia’ further along the path of justice.
Whatever our disagreements, let us work together to resolve them. The Voice referendum deserves cross-party co-operation. If we work together across political divides, the referendum will succeed, and we will have put Australia on both a moral and practical path to reconciliation.