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Finding the Heart of the Nation: Book Review

Tearfund Resource Review Finding the Heart of the Nation

Publications & Reports

Review by Ben Clarke

Finding the Heart of the Nation follows the 18-month journey of a man and a postal tube. The man, Thomas Mayor, was entrusted with taking the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in a postal tube, around Australia to gather support for the Statement’s triple call for action; for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations voice; a Makarrata Commission for truth-telling; and an agreement-making or treaties process.

I delved into this book seeking a clearer understanding of the development of the Statement and Indigenous leaders’ perspectives on it. I was not disappointed. Mayor’s conversational style delighted and informed me. I thoroughly enjoyed his stories, and I now feel so much hope in my increased understanding.

Review continues below.

Finding the Heart of the Nation is primarily a collection of intimate conversational interviews Mayor conducted as he crisscrossed the continent, meeting communities and sharing the message on the precious canvas. The interviews are accompanied by beautiful photographs of the people and places he visited. A thread of Mayor’s personal commentary weaves through the stories.

The book begins by illuminating the creation process of this unique and almost sacred document, told from the intimate vantage points of Rachel Perkins, Rene Kultija and of course, Thomas Mayor.

Mayor then introduces us to 20 Indigenous leaders who passionately support the adoption of the Uluru Statement. I must confess that many of these individuals were new to me, and I felt honoured to hear their stories.

Finding the Heart of the Nation
Image by @ReadingsBooks

Many of the interviews are with signatories of the original document, others are with people who watched the process from afar, yet all of them help build the case for this significant opportunity that is before us as a nation. Mayor’s personal reflections add context and insight to the significance of these stories. It is as if he is giving us a glimpse into the kind of healing a Makarrata Commission for truth-telling could bring. Yet this is not the primary purpose of the book. Each interview inevitably concludes with reflections on the importance of a constitutionally enshrined First Nations voice to parliament.

The message of the book is simple and unambiguous. Professor Marcia Langton (MA) expresses it this way in her contribution: “There is a clear answer to the question ‘What can we do to help?’ The answer is you can take any action possible to move the politicians from the comfortable status quo, and when the time comes you can vote ‘Yes’ to the referendum question on the Voice to Parliament.”

Through this book, we meet and gain an understanding of the perspectives of the people calling for a ‘Yes’ vote. This is not an ambiguous ask, affecting hypothetical communities. This is the heartfelt need of many people in Australia today.

Hearing the reasons that individuals support the call for ‘Voice’ helps build credibility in the creation process of the Statement, which many argue, has been the most significant Indigenous-led consultation process in this country's history. The stories included in this book give us confidence that supporting the creation of a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament, as called for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, is an important way to achieve a “fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood” for us all.

Thomas Mayor is on the board of From the Heart, a not-for-profit organisation committed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and a Voice to Parliament that is enshrined in the constitution.

Ben Clarke is Supporter Engagement Officer for Tearfund's work with the First Peoples of Australia.