26 April 2024

As we consider the Voice to Parliament, I commend to you Micah’s words

Archbishop Philip Freier

10 April 2023

Nearly six years ago, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders gathered at Mutitjulu, a community near Uluru in the Northern Territory, where they agreed the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Over the two years before this, 13 preparatory dialogues had taken place across Australia. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation to the overall Australian community to unite in addressing each of the three elements of the Uluru Statement, Voice, Treaty, and Truth. Each require elaboration and that only happens through dialogue and greater understanding. 

Read more: St Michael’s to host workshop on Uluru Statement from the Heart

We all know that, later in the year, there will be a constitutional referendum to establish in this foundational document of our nation a First Nations Voice to Parliament. It is important that we inform ourselves about the question so that the referendum can truly reflect the will of the electorate. To assist this process, Canon Glenn Loughrey is taking a period of sabbatical from his parish responsibilities at St Oswald’s Glen Iris to speak among Anglicans and the wider community from his perspective of why the Voice is important and merits support. I am grateful to Dean Andreas Loewe of St Paul’s Cathedral for assembling the funding support to make this possible. It is good that we are participating in the discussion in this way. 

I have found the recent book by Henry Reynolds, Truth Telling: History, Sovereignty and the Uluru Statement, most helpful in opening up the question of sovereignty and the assumptions made at various times throughout Australian history about the exclusive sovereignty of the Crown. Other nations such as New Zealand and Canada have very different historic narratives and contemporary responses to the question of the continuing sovereignty of First Nations people to that arrived at so far in Australia. The Treaty of Waitangi, agreed and signed in 1840, is known to most of us as a formative document in Maori and settler relationships that has continued to have an enduring influence on the development of contemporary society in Aoteoroa New Zealand.  

Read more: First Nations initiative set to inform diocese on Statement from the Heart, Voice to Parliament

The Victorian government has initiated a Pathway to Treaty process that has involved, amongst other things, the formation of a First People’s Assembly of Victoria and the Yoorook Justice Commission. Much is underway at various levels of our society at community, corporate and government levels. It is good to be informed about these initiatives and to access the resources that are available through our local government bodies and the state government. Many of our city councils in Melbourne have appointed reconciliation officers who may be a helpful resource for your parish community. Reach out to them and see what they can offer. 

Read more: A Voice to Parliament is just a first step towards healing

Micah’s words are well known and often repeated but I hope their enduring truth will rest in the hearts of many as the question of the Voice Referendum continues to be opened up to us. “God has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6.8)   

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