Western Australian Christian leaders from a range of denominations have come together with Aboriginal Christian leaders to commit their support for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Director of From the Heart, Quandamooka man from Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), Dean Parkin, met with the group to update them on the national campaign to support the Voice.
“Churches were a key supporter group behind the success of the last referendum about our mob in 1967, and so we are hoping that churches will come out again to support this referendum about constitutional recognition through a Voice”, said Dean.
“We need everybody to get behind this. Churches, businesses, unions, civil society, left, right, Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal – it doesn’t matter your background. This is not about politics or politicians. This is about everyone coming together to say that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can have a Voice to the Parliament.”
Representatives from at least six different denominations attended the briefing along with Aboriginal Christian leaders. Participants were eager to hear from the First Peoples participants about the reasons for their support of constitutional recognition through a Voice.
Rev Mitchell Garlett from the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress said, “My father always encouraged people to listen not only with their ears, but also with their hearts. The Statement From the Heart which called for this Voice is exactly that – a message, a request, an invitation from the heart of my people to the wider nation.
“I believe the church in this land has to lead the way in responding to this invitation, to help people listen with their hearts as we journey together in this way.”
Donella Brown from Derby, with strong family connections to Yawuru country and Director of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry said, “This is an important moment in our history as a country. This is not just about ensuring we have a say in matters that affect us today, but this will benefit our children and their children right into the future.”
Ian Carter AM, from the Anglican Social Responsibilities Commission said, “It’s easy to get confused by some of the information and media that is out there, but at the end of the day this referendum is happening regardless, and it is asking a simple and fundamental question of whether the Australian people want Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a Voice.
“A Voice that can’t be abolished with a change of government, a Voice to be able to speak on matters that directly affect them.”
Event organisers Geoff Bice and Wendy Hendry from the Social Justice Unit of the Uniting Church WA were pleased with the level of engagement from the broad range of Christian churches. Geoff Bice said, “This was really an initial step to engage some key people from across the Western Australian Christian community. It was great to see such interest and enthusiasm from churches to support a Voice to Parliament and we will be looking at how we can work together to build widespread support across faith communities.”
There are already some helpful resources available via From the Heart, Common Grace and the National Council of Churches, with more to be developed once the campaign officially launches in late February.