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Parliament house forecourt

A Voice to Parliament

Tearfund Position Statement on the Voice

Tearfund Australia is a Christian aid, development and advocacy organisation that has worked for over 50 years with local partner organisations in Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, the Pacific and with First Peoples-led partners here in Australia. As a Christian organisation, we seek to adhere to biblical teaching and evaluate all our attitudes and actions in its light.

Tearfund’s vision is for a just and compassionate world in which all people have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential. The dispossession and oppression of First Nations peoples in Australia is an injustice that has resulted in many being robbed of that opportunity.

Tearfund welcomes the current attention being given to the establishment of a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament and the Federal Government's commitment to hold a referendum on this issue. We believe this is an important step towards justice and we are committed to listening to and learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the process of its establishment.

We support the call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart for a First Nations Voice enshrined in the constitution. This reform will help to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to take their rightful place in their own country.

We hear the invitation in the Uluru Statement from the Heart to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a movement of all Australians for a better future.

We support the case to vote ‘Yes’ to the referendum question of whether a First Nations Voice should be enshrined in the Constitution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does Tearfund support the Voice to Parliament?

Tearfund’s vision is for a just and compassionate world in which all people have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential. The dispossession and oppression of First Nations peoples in Australia is an injustice that has resulted in many being robbed of that opportunity. Having consulted with First Nations Christian Leaders and responding to their requests to Tearfund, we are speaking up in support. Tearfund believes that the establishment of a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament will help enable First Nations people to be better heard in the places where decisions are made about them. We believe this is an important step towards justice.

Why is Tearfund advocating for the Voice to Parliament?

In 1967 Australia had a referendum to “to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the people of the Aboriginal race in any state and so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the population.”

On 15 May of that year the Australian Council of Churches issued a statement in support of the ‘yes’ vote, signed by leaders of all the major Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox denominations.1 The statement urged Australians to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum, stating that it was ‘an opportunity for Christians to show that they thought discrimination against Aborigines should be removed from every point of national life.’2

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Christians, who have told Tearfund that they remember this referendum, point to the church's involvement and the final result (90.77% in favour) as a source of encouragement. They remember that the church stood with them supporting their equality and rights within Australia.

Now in 2023, Tearfund sees participating in the referendum on the Voice in a similar spirit to what the church had in 1967. We want to stand with our First Nations Sisters and Brothers in Christ and support this initiative for their voice to be heard at the highest levels of decision making in the country.

Why have a Voice to Parliament?

The First Nations Voice to Parliament was one of the recommendations of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution is intended to empower First Nations Peoples to have a greater say in the policy and legislation that affect their communities. These would include advising the parliament on policy matters such as health, incarceration, education and economic participation. Tearfund's work to address poverty and injustice is predicated on the belief that central to the work of justice are actions that give voice to those who have historically been excluded or marginalised from political processes.

1. “Churches' 'yes'” (15 May 1967). The Canberra Times, 3. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article131654982

2. “Churches’ ‘yes’”, 3.