A New Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
In 1967, we recognized Australia’s First Peoples as citizens. Now, in 2023, we have the opportunity to vote in a referendum to constitutionally recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples through a Voice to Parliament.
As Catholic Bishops, we believe this is a chance for all Australians to renew our connection with the First Peoples. We have listened to their voices and encourage everyone to do the same with love and humility.
We invite the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) to share their experiences of injustice and hopes for the future. They address concerns such as high suicide rates, incarceration, shorter life expectancy, and disparities in employment, education, and housing. Racism remains an ongoing challenge.
NATSICC also recognizes the achievements of their people despite these challenges and applauds the Church’s efforts to support their communities. They endorse the referendum on the Voice as a positive step towards improving the lives of First Nations people.
We acknowledge the pain and hardship endured by First Nations Peoples. The Church has stood in solidarity since colonization, but we also acknowledge our role in the injustices they have faced.
As Catholics, we are called to begin a new engagement with the First Peoples, grounded in love. This love reflects Jesus’ message and is characterized by encounter, dialogue, reciprocity, mutual accompaniment, and putting others at the centre of our attention.
We offer simple actions to start this new engagement. We don’t tell you how to vote, but we encourage respectful dialogue and learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Let’s inform ourselves about the issues and engage with love.
Together, the Bishops and NATSICC call for us to walk together in love, on a journey of healing, regardless of the outcome of the Voice referendum. Let’s embrace this opportunity for unity and understanding.