SEPTEMBER 11, 2023
The Voice Referendum
I reiterate the appeal of all the bishops that debate and discussion be respectful and presume the good faith of people who have differing concerns and perspectives.
The Catholic Bishops of Australia propose the following principles:
1) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have lived in this land for many thousands of years. Their custodianship, however, is not recognised in the Australian Constitution. This is an omission which needs to be rectified. A constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament is proposed as a way to achieve this. The bishops acknowledge that a Voice is not the only possible way of recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in our Constitution, but it is the way requested by those who gathered at the historic meeting at Uluru.
2) This is being offered to us as having the possibility of being a significant step towards a more just and equitable Australia and as being a mechanism to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. If it achieves this, it will be an important moment in the history of the nation, and it will be a step towards a deep and just reconciliation.
3) The bishops encourage all Australians to educate themselves as well as possible concerning the proposal to establish the Voice.
4) The bishops urge all Australians to respect each other as they engage in the debate, accepting that people may, in good faith, have differing concerns and perspectives. We are an open democracy, and this is a moment to use our democratic institutions to produce a high-quality debate shaped by a genuine concern to do justice and bring healing to First Nations Peoples.
5) The bishops acknowledge that how each person votes will be a prudential decision which considers the positive change that might be generated and the possible dangers arising from this constitutional change.
6) To guide all Australians at this important time, the bishops encourage everyone to read and discuss the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which the bishops endorsed in 2021 and the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia endorsed in 2022.
7) The bishops recommend that Catholic parishes, schools and agencies arrange opportunities for people to come together to read and discuss the Uluru Statement which can be accessed at https://ulurustatement.org/the-statement/view-the-statement/
Online Resources from the Catholic Church in Australia
One Journey, Together – a website created by The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) with help from Caritas, Catholic Social Services and Jesuit Social Services.
Download the Kitchen Table Conversation Guide PDF – developed by NATSICC
Indigenous Voice represents a significant stride towards empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples – Statement on Voice and Q&A with Fr Frank Brennan SJ
Preparing for the Voice resource kit – Edmund Rice Centre
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Statements
- Statement regarding an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (234 KB)
- Bishops issue statement on Indigenous Voice to Parliament (236 KB)
Other Resources for your Reflection
You are invited to access the following articles from differing perspectives to deepen your reflection:
News Weekly – Warren Mundine address
The Voice Referendum – Bringing the Country With Us – by Frank Brennan SJ AO
Making Life Even Worse for Us – by Bess Nungarrayi Price
Listen – Just Listen – by Brian F. McCoy SJ