JJN members with workshop presenters First Nations Leader, Nicole Laupepa and Jacqui Parker.

It was wonderful to receive a message from Sr Denise McKay recently describing the overwhelming sense of gratitude experienced by all those who attended the historic South Australian Voice to Parliament. They witnessed the Bill pass through both Houses of Parliament, with the Governor signing the Act into law “before our eyes”. In the hopes of so many who were there, Sr Denise reflected, “may it foreshadow the outcome of the referendum”.

In the face of such hopefulness and possibility, it’s been challenging to have been confronted in recent weeks by the voices of anger and antagonism which have emerged. It has reminded us of the urgency to keep returning to what is at the heart of this referendum and, in our conversations, to share these basic truths:

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was backed by the vast majority of First Nations delegates at Uluru in 2017 (only seven out of more than 250 did not support it).

Speaking to the whole of the Australian people, the Statement asks simply and powerfully that we include in the Australian Constitutions:

    1. The recognition that First Nations people are the original peoples of this land, and
    2. The provision in The Australian Constitutions that First Nations Peoples be consulted on matters related to their lives.

An intrinsic part of this provision is the establishment of a a Makarrata Commission to oversee treaty-making and truth-telling. Voice, Treaty and Truth-telling are thus fundamentally linked.

The Uluru Statement is supported by all Aboriginal Land Councils around Australia, and a January poll in 2023 found that 80% of First Nations peoples support it.

Many leaders and communities across Australia have also raised their voices to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart. These voices include among others:

  • All State and Territory leaders
  • State and Territory First Nations Land Councils
  • The Catholic Bishops of Australia
  • The Australian Plenary Council of the Catholic Church
  • The Sisters of Saint Joseph
  • St Vincent de Paul
  • The National Council of Churches
  • The Australian Council of Trade Unions
  • The Business Council of Australia
  • The Australian Finance Sector
  • Multicultural Australia

We are hoping that these voices, supported by ours, will continue to speak out in the coming months and counter the disinformation, and misinformation that have already begun to surface on social media and in some other media outlets. There are valuable articles and YouTube videos to support these endorsements.

Like Sr Denise, we move forward in hope.

Jan Barnett rsj
Josephite Justice Co-ordinator
Josephite Justice Network (JJN)