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A Voice in our time

In his election victory speech, incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed his government to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart, calling for Voice Treaty and Truth emerged from six months of discussions held around the country that culminated in The First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in May 2017. From this pivotal coming together of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, the Uluru Statement is an invitation to all Australians to reshape the relationship between First Nations Peoples and the Australian population through lasting legal and structural reform.

One of the key changes being called for is the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution to empower First Nations peoples to have a greater say in the policy and legislation that affect their communities. Any change to our Constitution requires a referendum and, while the exact date is yet to be announced, it is likely that a referendum will be held this year.

The circumstances and thinking that, nearly 250 years ago, charted the course to this point is at once both alien and uncomfortably familiar. The dispossession of land, the genocide of First Peoples, the false and abhorrent premise of terra nullius that denied the God-given humanity and dignity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.1

Of course, there have been many positive steps taken since: individually, amongst communities, and on a national scale. The Referendum of 1967, the Mabo decision that exposed and expunged the lie of Terra Nullius in 1992, and the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008 are three such milestone moments. Yet a fundamental gap remains in our nation's Constitution and that is the failure to recognise First Nations peoples and their enduring history and role in this country now called Australia.

I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.

Exodus 3:7

To prepare for the referendum, Tearfund has consulted a wide range of First Nations Christian leaders to understand their views of the proposed Voice and what role they believe Tearfund could play as part of the wider church in Australia. Having listened and reflected upon these trusted and diverse voices, Tearfund has prepared a statement of our position.

As Christians, with all Australians, we have a once-in-generations opportunity to take a practical and substantive step on the path towards justice for First Nations Peoples. We believe the Church has a vitally important role to play and look forward to contributing our energy and effort to this historic moment throughout the year.