Ecumenical Leaders – Statement from the Heart & the Voice

(this page seeks to gather public statements provided by leaders of VCC Member Churches and agencies. Additional links and statements are welcome in order to provide a more comprehensive compilation)

Faith leaders from across Australia came together in 2022 to endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Catholic, Uniting and Anglican churches, the Australia National Council of Imams and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry together with Australian Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus and the National Council of Churches gathered in Sydney to endorse the Statement from the Heart. The Joint Resolution marks a decisive moment of community consensus across lines of faith, tradition and belief.
Full text of the Joint Resolution
On this day in 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples came together at Uluru and asked Australians to walk with them towards a better future. Through the Uluru Statement from the Heart, Indigenous Australians asked for constitutional recognition through a constitutionally guaranteed voice in their own affairs.
As leaders representing diverse religious communities, we declare our support of the Uluru Statement and its call for a First Nations Voice guaranteed by the Constitution. We endorse this reform as necessary, right and reasonable. Indigenous Australians must be now afforded their rightful place in the Australian Constitution. There have been many processes and much work completed. The one thing left to do is let the Australian people have their say. We call on political leaders to take immediate bipartisan action to hold a referendum on a First Nations voice.

Statement in support of the Statement from the Heart and the Voice to Parliament.
Our Quaker testimonies call us to be in right relationship with all peoples and to support social justice systems where people know their concerns are being heard and taken into account.
In the Statement from the Heart, First Peoples speak of the torment of their powerlessness and seek constitutional reforms to empower their people and to take a rightful place in their own country.
They call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice to be enshrined in the Constitution and seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about their history. They seek to be heard.
First Peoples conclude the Statement from the Heart with an invitation to walk with them in a movement of the Australian people for a better future for all living in this vast country now called Australia. Australian Quakers accept this invitation with gratitude.
Australian Quakers consider it is essential that First Peoples have an effective say in laws and policies that affect them. We support the full implementation of the Statement from the Heart and we hold that support for the Yes vote for the Voice is a pivotal step toward the Statement’s full implementation.
Full implementation of the Statement from the Heart will provide the Australian people with an effective mechanism to finally and fully confront the truth of our past and our present and to make way for abiding justice, healing, recovery and repair for Original Australians, and rightful relationships between us all.
Bruce Henry
Presiding Clerk Australia Yearly Meeting July 2023

Catholic Social Services Victoria statement in support of the Voice: Relentlessly Pursuing Reconciliation

Statement about the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice by David Fotheringham, Moderator, Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
April 2023

Recognising the First Peoples of Australia by the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice is something that the Uniting Church is proud to support. I’ve been following the conversation closely since the National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in 2017, and I deeply respect and appreciate my colleagues and friends in the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), in their walking together with the Uniting Church. I’m very glad to support the YES campaign, and to encourage individuals, congregations and institutions of the Church to take this opportunity to respond to the expressed hopes of First Peoples and deepen our walking together.|
God created and sustained this land and the First Peoples long before colonisation.[1] Dispossession, violence and injustice caused massive damage to First Nations people, their knowledge and their relationships, diminishing the integrity of the gospel proclaimed by the churches.[2]
I am glad that thanks to the work of visionaries like Charles Harris, the UAICC invited the Uniting Church into a covenantal relationship in which “we may all see a destiny together, praying and working together for a fuller expression of our reconciliation in Jesus Christ.” 
In 2021, the UAICC Interim National Chairperson, along with the Uniting Church Assembly President, urged the Government to adopt the proposal for a constitutionally enshrined National Voice, recognising that such a Voice would be fed by local and regional representation, and being clear that a voice which was not given recognition in the Constitution would miss the primary appeal of the Statement from the Heart.
The Statement from the Heart came out of a thorough process of First Peoples led Dialogues, culminating in the National Constitutional Convention at Uluru. It clearly calls for a constitutionally enshrined Voice, as well as a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement making and truth telling. I’m glad that around the Church there have been many opportunities to unpack this rich and moving statement.
Having heard from the UAICC and the Statement from the Heart, the Uniting Church’s Assembly Standing Committee has strongly affirmed the Church’s support for the Voice, as a step towards Voice, Truth-telling and Treaty.
The referendum is a profound opportunity for all Australians to respond to the invitation from Uluru. It is a means for First Peoples to be recognised and heard on matters that have direct effect, in a way that national consultation among First Peoples’ has requested, allowing for details of structure and process to be overseen by the Parliament.
I’ve been encouraged at both ecumenical and interfaith forums to consistently find strong support for the Voice.
Along with colleagues and friends from the UAICC, I am keen to urge strong and clear support for the Voice. I encourage respectful conversations around all aspects of addressing injustice for First Nations people, and I pray that through this we will respond to our high calling in Christ to be instruments of reconciliation and peace: Following Christ, walking together as First and Second Peoples seeking community, compassion and justice for all creation.[3]
[1] Uniting Church in Australia Preamble to the Constitution
[2] Preamble, paragraph 6
[3] Vision Statement, Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, emphasis added

Why The Salvation Army supports The Voice to Parliament
(by Captain Stuart Glover, who oversees The Salvation Army’s social services in Australia and is proudly from the Bundjalung Nation).
The Salvation Army is a steadfast supporter of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Voice to Parliament. That is because, simply put, we don’t think a Voice will be hollow symbolism. it will be powerfully symbolic, of course, but it will also be deeply practical in a way that can lead to better outcomes and enrich the experience of both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians together. let me explain why.
For around 140 years, Salvos have rolled up their sleeves and helped where they can. We started social services with a modest program assisting discharged prisoners at the prison gates in Melbourne, and now we provide over 2000 services across Australia. We support people experiencing homelessness, family and domestic violence, financial hardship, unemployment, social isolation and loneliness and help them recover from natural disasters.
Actively Listening
Throughout our history, we have learnt the hard way about delivering services without listening, thinking we knew best. This approach did not work then and does not work now. This has been our most important lesson over the past 140 years – you can’t help people if you’re not listening to them.

  • You can’t deliver a great service without actively listening to the people using it.
  • You can’t draft a great policy if you’re not listening to the people who have to follow it.
  • You can’t make great law if you’re not listening to the people who will be impacted by it.

When we engage with people impacted by disadvantage we find areas of strength that provide a platform for change. When we make space for people to feel empowered and equipped, the level of innovation is astounding. When we acknowledge our country’s vastness and diversity, we can find local solutions that work in ways that couldn’t be imagined from an air-conditioned conference room in a capital city.
A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament creates an opportunity to make real progress on addressing the terrible disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Australians experience.
it will allow our lawmakers to hear directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people. They will get access to the diversity of views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders about matters that affect them differently depending on their circumstances. They will get information not filtered by multiple levels of government, not varnished and polished by service providers, and not sanitised into talking points by public servants.
The Salvos live, love and fight for justice wherever they can. We have met with many MPs and senators in the Parliament and, without exception and wherever they sit in the chambers, we have heard their desire to make good laws. i believe they want to listen.
i think all governments try to consult, but there are some very practical constraints. This is a huge country, and with over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander nations, consulting with people from three or four nations is not going to get the best results. We have 151 seats in the House of Representatives for a reason. We all know that someone speaking for inner-city Sydney can’t speak for people in rural Western Australia or remote areas of the Northern Territory (or vice versa).
i believe that once we have the Voice in the Constitution, Parliament can work together to ensure it delivers on its promise. That is how it has worked for every other public institution in Australia’s history, and no other reform has been perfect from day one. But i understand why many Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people don’t have that kind of faith. Our history is littered with ‘consultation’ with mob that has been ignored.
Diversity will make a Voice to Parliament so much more powerful if, and when, it becomes part of the Constitution. This is what The Salvation Army is praying will happen, because of the other thing we have learnt over 140 years of helping Australians – it is impossible to listen to people if you don’t let them have a voice.

Uniting Church President Rev Sharon Hollis was the signatory to the Joint Resolution on behalf of the Uniting Church Assembly. “The Uluru Statement from the Heart has been offered by First Peoples as a gift of grace and an invitation to the Australian community to walk with them towards a more just future and nation. It is time we answer the call. As the Uniting Church we are committed to heeding the voices of First Peoples through a binding covenantal relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress which has sat at the heart of our Church for almost 30 years. Through this relationship we know of the transformational wisdom, insights and leadership of First Peoples. These would be a gift to Parliament and our nation”.

Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli
“My hope is simply that Catholics will be inspired by Jesus to join the hard work of finding constitutional recognition of the voice of first peoples into our Parliament and that reconciliation will find new energy and witness at this moment in history. I am personally moved by the deep yearning expressed in the Statement from the Heart, and I am so encouraged that faith leaders have offered a response from the heart of their own spiritual traditions”.
Originally published here.

Archbishop Comensoli: Uluru statement offers gift of grace to our nation published in The Australian.

In Statements from the Soul (February 2023), Archbishop Comensoli reflects on the relational elements of “lifting up our hearts” to Aboriginal Australians. The Uluru Statement is not a “static utterance to fill a void” but is rather a dynamic invitation to relationship, “an invitation and not as a command”.

Catholic Bishops endorse Statement from the Heart
Australia’s Catholic bishops, on the recommendation of their key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisers, have endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference made the decision as it gathered online for its biannual meeting earlier this month.

‘This is an important moment in the history of the nation, and it can help us to move towards a deep and just reconciliation. It also offers a mechanism to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.’

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, May 2023

The bishops’ consideration of the matter was informed by the words of St John Paul II, who in a visit to Alice Springs in 1986 said to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: “Your culture, which shows the lasting genius and dignity of your race, must not be allowed to disappear… Your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, your languages, must never be lost.”
Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, chair of the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, said the Bishops Conference had been awaiting guidance on the Statement from the Heart.
“We are very grateful for the reflections of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council in helping shape our thinking on this important subject. That Council recently endorsed the Statement from the Heart, and we have listened carefully to their reasons for doing so. We also heard from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of the Plenary Council at our recent assembly of their desire for the Church in Australia to follow NATSICC’s lead.”
The Plenary Council’s agenda called for the Church to “honour and acknowledge the continuing deep spiritual relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to this country and commit ourselves to the ongoing journey of reconciliation”.
Among the key recommendations of the Uluru Statement are the establishment of a First Nations “Voice” to the Australian Parliament and a commission to supervise a process of “truth-telling” between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Bishop Macbeth-Green said the bishops acknowledged there remain diverse views within Indigenous communities on the Uluru Statement, but the principles of reconciliation and walking together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders fit well in the Catholic understanding. “Sadly, we within the Church have not always lived up to our Gospel calling in our engagement with our Indigenous brother and sisters. The endorsement of the Uluru Statement is another step in our journey of addressing those shortcomings, but it will be an ongoing journey with First Peoples. Part of that will see us listening to the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rather than a tendency to talk about them. That is the model we seek to emulate with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, and that has brought us to this point.”

Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier
Nearly six years ago, 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders gathered at Mutitjulu, a community near Uluru in the Northern Territory, where they agreed the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Over the two years before this, 13 preparatory dialogues had taken place across Australia. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation to the overall Australian community to unite in addressing each of the three elements of the Uluru Statement, Voice, Treaty, and Truth. Each require elaboration and that only happens through dialogue and greater understanding.
We all know that, later in the year, there will be a constitutional referendum to establish in this foundational document of our nation a First Nations Voice to Parliament. It is important that we inform ourselves about the question so that the referendum can truly reflect the will of the electorate. To assist this process, Canon Glenn Loughrey is taking a period of sabbatical from his parish responsibilities at St Oswald’s Glen Iris to speak among Anglicans and the wider community from his perspective of why the Voice is important and merits support. I am grateful to Dean Andreas Loewe of St Paul’s Cathedral for assembling the funding support to make this possible. It is good that we are participating in the discussion in this way.
I have found the recent book by Henry Reynolds, Truth Telling: History, Sovereignty and the Uluru Statement, most helpful in opening up the question of sovereignty and the assumptions made at various times throughout Australian history about the exclusive sovereignty of the Crown. Other nations such as New Zealand and Canada have very different historic narratives and contemporary responses to the question of the continuing sovereignty of First Nations people to that arrived at so far in Australia. The Treaty of Waitangi, agreed and signed in 1840, is known to most of us as a formative document in Maori and settler relationships that has continued to have an enduring influence on the development of contemporary society in Aoteoroa New Zealand.
The Victorian government has initiated a Pathway to Treaty process that has involved, amongst other things, the formation of a First People’s Assembly of Victoria and the Yoorook Justice Commission. Much is underway at various levels of our society at community, corporate and government levels. It is good to be informed about these initiatives and to access the resources that are available through our local government bodies and the state government. Many of our city councils in Melbourne have appointed reconciliation officers who may be a helpful resource for your parish community. Reach out to them and see what they can offer.
Micah’s words are well known and often repeated but I hope their enduring truth will rest in the hearts of many as the question of the Voice Referendum continues to be opened up to us. “God has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6.8)

Churches of Christ (reflection on Think Spot on CCVT website)
In her 1960s biography of Doug Nicholls, Pastor Doug, Mavis Thorpe Clark refers to the 1937 petition for a Voice to Parliament signed by 1,814 Indigenous Australians. It sought their representation in both Federal and State Governments and was to be presented to King George VI. Ultimately, it was rejected because the Commonwealth had no authority to amend the Constitution apart from a referendum.

A parallel idea was to write to the Prime Minister asking for a National Day of Mourning on Australia Day, 26th January, in 1938. This was to mark the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet. The Melbourne Argus published an offensive report on 17th January, suggesting that “the Australian Aboriginal culture belongs to a very early stage of mankind’s development [and that its people] cannot be treated as a modern, civilised race.” The Day of Mourning proceeded, but with little public or official support.

Doug Nicholls, involved in several of the earliest discussions on these matters (with the hope that his VFA and VFL footballing profile would assist) later wrote to the Prime Minister in 1949, after the proposal to erect the Woomera rocket range. As a representative spokesperson for many Indigenous people, including as a Churches of Christ minister in Melbourne, his willingness to take action was significant. He again urged that an Indigenous representative be permitted to advocate on issues such as the Woomera matter, stating the desire for his people to have a spokesperson “in the National Parliament of their own native land.” Further correspondence with Kim Beazley Snr. reiterated the difficulty in enacting such request without alteration of the Constitution.

After many such attempts at change led by distinguished Indigenous leaders connected to our movement, we again hear the cry for a Constitutional amendment that would finally give a voice to Indigenous Australians. This time, continuation of the legacy of forward-thinking justice seems to be more widely supported, even if some apprehensions remain.

(Reservations over the nature of ‘The Voice,’ and the extent to which it might be utilised, have been countered by the fact that it must be permitted before detailing its implementation, as with the introduction of other legislated powers).

Walking with Indigenous Christians empathetically over time has taught many to listen to what Indigenous people want and need. Could the significance of some other important and prominent initiatives, first sought by Indigenous Christians decades ago and currently supported by a strong majority of First Nations People, also be calling us to consider what it is that we can, or should, do now?

Statement by Bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia

Salvation Army
The Salvation Army welcomes the further detail provided by the Prime Minister about the wording and pathway to establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.
This is a critical nation-building initiative, and The Salvation Army commends the government for its commitment to giving the Australian people the opportunity to have their say.
The Salvation Army sees first-hand the social injustices experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia across the breadth of its services. An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament will provide an opportunity to correct existing structural issues and ensure that future legislation does not create or perpetuate disadvantage and injustice.
Australia can benefit from our Parliament having access to the advice, wisdom and lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across our country The Salvation Army has accepted the gracious invitation contained in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and we want to be part of delivering on the promise contained within it. A constitutionally protected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament is an important first step.
The Salvation Army remains committed to serving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout our network of more than 2000 services across the country

Coptic Orthodox
Fr Kaldas, a Coptic Orthodox priest, says that Christian Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt, and have suffered greatly as a result of invasion and colonisation.
“For us, holding a referendum on a First Nations Voice is both a matter of empathy and a profoundly moral concern. As a Copt, this empathy arises from our similar historical experiences. The Copts are the indigenous people of Egypt, whose heritage and culture goes back to the time of the pharaohs and beyond. The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest in the world, having been established by the apostle and evangelist St. Mark around 42 CE. While the history of our culture is perhaps one tenth the duration of that of the Indigenous peoples of Australia, we understand the experience of being second class citizens in our own traditional land.
Well-meaning people may often view indigenous minorities as helpless, almost infantile victims in need of enlightened and civilised help. But the Copts have always understood that no one else can appreciate, value, or preserve their own heritage, culture, beliefs, and traditions the way Copts can. Whatever direction Copts take, we need to choose it for ourselves.
Attempts to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians may be similarly well-meaning, but such attempts to help have often been condescending and ineffective. We need to understand that Indigenous people are capable of finding their own destiny if they are given the chance. This is what the Uluru Statement challenges us to understand. It is a call for Indigenous Australians to be given greater responsibility in their own affairs, through a constitutionally guaranteed voice in laws and policies made about them.
A constitutionally guaranteed Indigenous voice is an initiative that originates from the Indigenous peoples themselves. No one is telling them what to do. No other community in Australia faces the hurdles and obstacles — both historical and present — that the Indigenous peoples face. And they understand their situation best.
A constitutional voice would establish the lines of communication that are essential if Indigenous peoples are to be empowered to fashion their own destinies. Of course, the effectiveness of these lines of communication will depend on the quality of those individuals who will, from time to time, occupy the key positions on all sides, but at least the Indigenous peoples of Australia will have a permanent seat at the table that makes decisions about their future.
The joint resolution (see ‘full text of joint resolution’ in introduction) demonstrates that such a voice is something that diverse faith and, I believe, migrant communities will wholeheartedly support at a referendum.
As an immigrant, I have always felt immensely blessed to have the privilege of being Australian. When my family arrived in 1969 with nothing more than a number of suitcases and a few dollars in our pockets, we had all sorts of opportunities open before us. How sad it is to think that even in that position, our opportunities were already greater, and the obstacles before us fewer, than those whose land this has been for uncounted generations. As (Egyptian) indigenous people ourselves, we understand the painful sting of being relegated to the bottom of the society of those who came late and imposed themselves and their ways upon us.
It is time for immigrant communities, especially those who experienced discrimination in their own traditional homelands, to get whole-heartedly behind our Australian Indigenous cousins. Let’s do what Australia does best: come together to lead the world when it comes to compassion, common sense, and a fair go for all
Rev. Dr Antonios Kaldas is a parish priest at Archangel Michael and St. Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church in Sydney and Lecturer in Philosophy at St. Cyril’s Coptic Theological College in the Sydney College of Divinity. Source: ABC website

Anglican Diocese of MelbourneSt Paul’s Cathedral
At their February meeting, members of the Cathedral Chapter voted unanimously to endorse the Statement from the Heart and the Yes Campaign for the upcoming Voice to Parliament Referendum. Speaking of the endorsement the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dr Andreas Loewe, said: “I believe the invitation offered by Aboriginal people to walk alongside them is an extraordinary one. I am proud that this endorsement by Chapter means that the Cathedral too may formally endorse the Statement, and the Yes Campaign.”
St Paul’s Cathedral prays, works, and advocates for First Nations Justice and for reconciliation in Australia.

Uniting Vic.Tas has heard the message from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders through the Uluru Statement From the Heart seeking Voice, Treaty, Truth and we accept the generous offer contained therein to walk together towards a better future.  
“We stand with and honour the First Nations people of this country and their call for this simple and modest reform to The Australian Constitution”, says Uniting Vic.Tas CEO, Bronwyn Pike.   We also join the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) in supporting the Yes vote for a Voice and in recognising this as a pivotal step toward the full implementation of the Uluru Statement:  “The Uluru Statement is an invitation given by the First Nations people to the people of Australia”, Rev Kickett of the UAICC said. “A constitutionally enshrined Voice will shape and guide the relationship between First and Second peoples in this country by enabling our people to have a say in the decisions that impact our communities” – extract from Uniting Church in Australia Assembly and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) Media Release 24 February 2023 
“This is an historic moment for all Australians”, Ms Pike said. “We must come together and vote Yes to changing our constitution and recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians as our First Peoples.” 
“We have also heard from our First Nations’ workforce from across Victoria and Tasmania who came together in early 2023 and discussed the importance of Uniting, as a mainstream organisation, standing as an ally in the push for constitutional recognition and a Voice to Parliament. It is the first step to addressing the wrongs and injustices of the past and giving First Nations people a long overdue voice on the issues that affect their lives.”  

Statement by Rt Reverend Dr Matt Brain, Bishop of Bendigo