“At the heart of the Uniting Church is a commitment to walk together with First Nations people in seeking justice. We seek to work and pray together as First and Second Peoples for more just, inclusive and equal relationships in the church and in this nation. Inspired by this commitment, we support a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament as an historic opportunity to recognise and honour First Nations people and to walk together as a nation toward a better future.”
Uniting Church in Australia, Uniting for the Voice, uniting.church/voice/
On 14 October 2023 all Australians will be asked to vote on whether they support a change in the Australian Constitution to recognise an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. The First Nations Voice is the first proposal contained within the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart was made by the First Nations’ National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in May 2017 as a consensus position of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders from across Australia. It is an invitation to the Australian people to help build a better future for all Australians.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution and a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth- telling about our history.
In February this year, President of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA), Rev Sharon Hollis and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) Interim National Chair, Rev Mark Kickett affirmed their strong support for a Voice to Parliament as a critical step toward honouring the sovereignty of First Nations Australians in this land and furthering the work of truth-telling and treaty.
This position was formalised at the March 2023 Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) meeting which declared the support of the Uniting Church in Australia for the proposed change in the constitution to recognise an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament, noting that the decision was informed by the Uniting Church’s commitment to the Covenant between the Uniting Church and the UAICC.
The ASC resolved to call on church, community, and political leaders to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue in response to the referendum.
“The Uniting Church is committed to do justice and mercy to all. At this time as a nation, we are working together to give a voice to our indigenous brothers and sisters to the Parliament. I think we need to stand by them and support in whichever way we possibly can.”Susy Thomas, ex-Moderator, Uniting Church WA
Hearing from UAICC WA Voices
Some Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) WA Regional Committee leaders were asked about their thoughts on the Voice, and why it is important to them for the Uniting Church to support a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament.
“For the church to support this, for me would show a deeper commitment to reconciliation and the relationship they have with UAICC.”Rev Mitchell Garlett
“I think it’s important for the church to support the Voice to Parliament because it acknowledges the journey that they’re on with indigenous people of this land. And how much they are willing to strengthen that bond and that relationship in order to make this place a better place to live. In accepting and supporting this Voice would only do what the church was meant to do in the building of God’s Kingdom, helping those in need. To serve for justice and peace in this world for everyone.”
Rev Mitchell Garlett, ordained minister in the Uniting Church and a member of UAICC WA Regional Committee.
“I think it’s always good for the church to encourage things the indigenous people are trying to do. Being in the Uniting Church…we have the covenant agreement which supports indigenous people, especially in the church. So to take that a bit further, to put it into the parliament, into government, is a good move, and it shows that the church is supporting the indigenous people and the role that they want to do. Speaking up and being a voice, that’s what it’s all about.”
Rev Robert Jetta, ordained minister in the Uniting Church and Chairperson of UAICC WA Regional Committee.
“We need that voice for our people, to help our people, supporting our young people, our emerging people, our future, because we need a strong future.”Jennifer Turner, a member of the Waroona Uniting Church and UAICC WA Regional Committee.
To hear from more representatives of the Uniting Church and UAICC go to https://uniting.church/what-the-voice-means-to-me/
If you would like to know more about the Uniting Church’s commitments and statements relating to Covenanting and the Voice, you can find them on the UCA Assembly website, along with resources, helpful links and FAQ’s for individuals and congregations on what it means to support a First Nations Voice to Parliament. uniting.church/voice
Hearing from the Heart
Click on the image below to download the worship resource ‘Hearing from the Heart – Service for the Voice’ prepared by the Uniting Church WA Social Justice Commission and commended by the Covenanting Commission.
This is an adaptation of an article first published in the June 2023 edition of Revive magazine.