As further updates and information is made available we will be updating the information on this page – scroll down for updates
Sometime in 2023, it is anticipated that Australia will face a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. This has come about from the call of the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, for the establishment of a First Nations Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the Constitution.
Following there are some documents, resources and reflections to consider as we, as a nation, head towards this historic referendum concerning the First Nations people in this country: a Voice to Parliament on behalf of those who, despite being here for millennia, feel unheard in their own land. Our history is complex, but our rich past must be woven into the fabric of our nation, not forgotten or erased. Our past always plays a part in our present and our future, just as this important decision will also.
Victorian Baptists and the BUV have been engaging with this topic for a number of years. At the BUV Gathering in March 1998, an official apology was made to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including a commitment to reconciliation. Then, in 2007, a resolution was passed at Assembly, encouraging every Victorian Baptist congregation to commit to taking practical steps to grow in understanding and relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2016, this was tabled again with a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) that the BUV Support Hub created for churches to adopt. This statement was contained in the RAP:
We envisage a world where humankind is reconciled to each other, to God and to creation. We believe the Christian gospel holds a unique priority for those at the margins of our society and thus emphasise a special effort to reconcile with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and to learn from their deep wisdom of caring for creation.
For our discernemnt process this year (Consultation Forum and Members’ Dinner discussions) we sought to provide information from both sides and stimulate thought and discussion on an important moment in history.
As Jesus followers, we are called to love our neighbour, over and above any issue. Regardless of the nation’s decision on the referendum, our Victorian Baptist commitment to reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples will not change.
What we have heard from our 2023 Discernment Process
The BUV has completed its process of discernment for 2023 on two topics – one of which was the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. A summary of the points made in the discernment process will be posted here late June.
Many questions were raised during the discussion, and we are in the process of gathering answers from a respected Indigenous christian which we hope will be helpful. This response will be posted here when available.
Moving forward we will continue to uphold the decisions of the past to emphasise a special effort to reconcile with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and to learn from their deep wisdom of caring for creation.
UPDATE 23rd June 2023
The legislation that allows the Voice referendum to go ahead was passed by the Parliament on Monday 19 June 2023.
The passing of the Bill confirms the referendum question and the proposed alteration to the Constitution. It means that the referendum can be held later this year.
It is important that all Australians eligible to vote, take time individually to understand what we are being asked to vote on and what it will mean for all Australians (both indigenous and non indigenous).
The Government has launched its Voice to Parliament website where information is provided about the referendum that individual Australians will be asked to vote on later this year. Click here www.VOICE.gov.au to visit the website and to view resources you can share with your community or congregations.
There are two websites that provide information and resources for the NO campaign – click on the links below to visit these websites – https://www.recogniseabetterway.org.au , https://www.fairaustralia.com.au/
UPDATE 24th March 2023
At a Press Conference held on 23 March, 2023, Prime Minister Albanese outlined the proposed wording for the proposed referendum. Click here to watch as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announces proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament question wording — ABC News
The referendum date is yet to be set but it is expected to be between September and December 2023.
The process still requires some activity as Parliament is yet to meet and debate the final pieces of legislation necessary to facilitate the vote. However, on 23 March, the Parliament unanimously passed through the Senate the legislation for provisions of the vote – the referendum machinery bill, ending a long and sometimes tense debate on the rules that will govern the Voice referendum later this year.
Legislation will be introduced with the below wording on 30 March and a joint parliamentary committee will be established which will have time to consider any submissions that are made, and this will be put to a parliamentary vote in June. This parliamentary process allows room for the question itself to be altered prior to a referendum, however Prime Minister Albanese has made it very clear that the relevant advisory groups have so far worked long and hard to arrive at this wording.
The referendum question:
A Proposed Law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
Do you approve this proposed alteration?
In addition to this question the following information has been provided as a proposed new chapter for the Constitution:
Chapter IX Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Isander Peoples 129 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
In recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of Australia:
- There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice;
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice may make representations to the Parliament and the Executive Government of the Commonwealth on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, including its composition, functions, powers and procedures.
And in addition, there are Design Principles (still requiring Parliamentary approval) that will guide The Voice.
Following are these Design Principles of the Voice to Parliament agreed by the First Nations Referendum Working Group:
- The Voice will give independent advice to the Parliament and Government
- It will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People based on the wishes of local communities
- It will be representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, gender balanced and include youth
- It will be empowering, community led, inclusive, respectful and culturally informed
- It will be accountable and transparent
- It will work alongside existing organisations and traditional structures
- It will not have a programme delivery function
- It will not have a Veto power
One of the biggest challenges ahead of a referendum is ensuring voters have the information they need to cast an informed vote. In the coming months we can expect the government to circulate basic information on the Constitution, Australia’s system of government and the referendum process.
VIDEO and ON-LINE RESOURCES:
- Dale Stephenson, Senior Pastor Crossway: australianstogether.org.au
- From the Heart:
Campaign and educational resources fromtheheart.com.au/
Online e-learning course fromtheheart.com.au/education/
- Australians Together Resources:
- Uluru Statement quick guide:
Uluru Statement – aph.gov.au/
- Common Grace
Sermon Aboriginal Sunday 2023 Listening to the Voices from the Past – YouTube
- First Australians Series – SBS on Demand
- Riding the Black Cockatoo – John Danalis
- One Blood – John Harris
- Lowitja – Stuart Rintoul
- Tumultuous Times (Chapter 4) – Dr John Sampson
- Scott Darlow is a Yorta Yorta man who lives in Melbourne. He is available to speak and sing in your church. scottdarlow.com; email@example.com
- 25 March – Indigenous Debate on ‘The Voice’ – surrender.org.au/