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Anglicans call for parliamentary First Nations voice

Turnbull Government urged to reconsider rejection of proposed Indigenous advisory body to Parliament

PHOTO: Supplied

By Barney Zwartz and Chris Shearer

November 10 2017The Anglican Primate of Australia, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier, has joined hundreds of other leading Australians in signing a joint statement expressing disappointment in Federal Cabinet’s decision to reject the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which proposed creating an Indigenous advisory body to Parliament.

The statement, prepared by epidemiologist Professor Fiona Stanley, a former Australian of the Year, and Australian Council of Social Services CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie, urges the Government to reconsider its refusal.

Nearly 1000 eminent Australians signed the statement in just a few days. The signatories say they support the Uluru Statement by First Nations peoples, and urge the Parliament to make it a national priority.

“Many First Nations peoples that we know and respect are again experiencing a governmental rejection of their views. First Nations voices are the only ones who can truly explain and ameliorate the historical intergenerational traumas, the marginalisation, the hurts and all their consequences,” the statement says.

“We strongly support progressing Australia’s First Nations peoples’ right to a say in the decisions that affect their lives.

“Giving First Nations peoples a say in the decisions that affect their lives will provide an opportunity for doing things differently and more productively, by simply listening to the advice of people who are affected, and by allowing First Nations peoples to claim their rightful place in the nation.”

Anglican Board of Mission has also thrown its support behind a constitutionally-entrenched First Nations voice, and said it was disappointed that the Turnbull Government has refused to explore this recommendation by the Referendum Council.

ABM’s reconciliation coordinator Celia Kemp said the Prime Minister’s reasons for the rejection were “deeply inadequate”.

“This dismissive rejection of the considered voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples after such an extensive consultation only highlights the need for a constitutionally-entrenched voice,” she said.

The Anglican Church of Australia’s National Aboriginal Bishop, Bishop Chris McLeod, said Indigenous peoples from across Australia were “deeply disappointed and saddened” by the Government’s “insensitive and short sighted actions”.

“We regard it as another example of some non-Indigenous people, especially government, showing complete disregard for the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and many non-Indigenous Australians as well,” he said.

“The Government’s actions have done deep damage to the cause of reconciliation in this land. We pray and hope for a change of mind.”

The Turnbull Government rejected the idea of a constitutionally-entrenched Indigenous “Voice to Parliament” on October 26, saying the proposal was not “desirable or capable of winning acceptance in a referendum”.