Statement from the Heart: Voice. Treaty. Truth.
Constitutional Sovereignty
Walking Together with First Nations People

One of the objectives of the Victorian Council of Churches is to encourage and enable the Member Churches in the light of the Gospel to be a prophetic voice to each other and the community “by acting in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People“.[VCC Constitution 5.1 (b) (iv)]


Referendum updates and seminars will be posted here and on the Events page on the VCC website.

In the news

Launch of Government website for the Voice (21st May)
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney launched the government’s website,, designed to be a place to go for factual information about the proposal to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament that would be enshrined in the Australian Constitution. She says Australians will need it to be well-informed.

Media (18th May 2023) Thomas Mayo* and journalist Kerry O’Brien have co-authored The Voice to Parliament Handbook (available through bookstores and also Big W for $12). The handbook answers the most commonly asked questions about why the Voice should be enshrined in the Constitution, and how it might function to improve policies affecting Indigenous communities, and genuinely close the gap on inequalities at the most basic level of human dignity. 
(*Thomas Mayo, formerly known as Thomas Mayor)

(7th April 2023) – Rev Canon Glenn Loughrey response to Peter Dutton’s Easter message. Read more here.
Easter sermon (3rd April) – Rev Canon Glenn Loughrey
This is my body; it’s all that I have’.

Statement from the Heart and Referendum
The Statement from the Heart emerged from The First Nations National Constitutional Convention at Uluru in May 2017. It was the coming together of 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to articulate the nature of reforms desired by First Nations, and advise parliament on a pathway toward a successful referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.

The Statement from the Heart called for two reforms:

  1. The establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Australian Constitution to empower First Peoples to have a greater say in policy and legislation which governs their affairs and, in so doing, improve their autonomy and prosperity.
  2. The establishment of a Makarrata Commission to;
    • Supervise a process of agreement-making, or treaty, between governments and First Nations, and
    • Provide a means for truth-telling about the history of Australia’s First Peoples.

Statement from the Heart website

Responding to common concerns about an Aboriginal and Islander voice (Australian National University) – recommended

The Voice (Government website) – straightforward overview.

Response from Church Leaders, Networks & agencies

Compilation of statements by Faith Leaders endorsing the Statement from the Heart and the Voice.

Australia’s major faith based charities unite in support of Voice to Parliament.

Rugby Australia statement (May 2023) on Twitter supporting the Voice. This follows the lead of the NRL, Football Australia, the Australian Olympic Committee and Tennis Australia.
The AFL has issued a statement: “While we encourage everyone to seek the information they need to form their own views on the referendum, the AFL proudly supports the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution through the Voice to Parliament”. The AFL support is in keeping with the support for the Voice to Parliament by clubs including Geelong, Richmond, Essendon, Collingwood and West Coast.

NETWORKS (and many denominational networks)

Common Grace will continue to provide training, resources and opportunities to listen, pray, give and join in action by:

  • helping to host and organise events in your local community
  • attending training to meet with your parliamentarians about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice
  • having conversations with your friends and community about the upcoming referendum
  • creatively engaging in listening to the voices that have been calling for Aboriginal Voice and justice in these lands, and
  • inviting your church to support and partner with Common Grace

(Youtube presentation introducing Common Grace campaign here)

From the Heart/Yes23 is a campaign for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament that is enshrined in the Constitution. It is now time for the Australian people to come together through a referendum and make this fair and practical change. From the Heart is the coordinating organisation supporting an Indigenous voice to parliament referendum and their campaign will involve recruiting volunteers, door-knockers and grassroots groups. Download From the Heart campaign toolkit and resources

Allies for Uluru is a coalition of 144+ organisations and thousands of individuals, and will be providing timely and relevant resources for community groups and individuals. Allies for Uluru will act as ‘conduit’ for organisations to support yes campaign, and includes Fred Hollows Foundation and Oxfam

RESOURCES (print and online)

Canon Glenn Loughrey has produced three downloadable resources – 2 pamphlets and an e-book. Recommended.
What is The Voice pamphlet

FAQ on The Voice

Voice and Statement from the Heart e-book

INDIGENOUS VOICE TO PARLIAMENT: Moments for healing this country
Thursdays 25th May, 29th June and 27th July:
4.00pm – 5.00pm (AEST)
Catholic Social Services Victoria & Catholic Social Services Australia invite you to join them in a Webinar Series on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament: Moments for healing this country.
The Series is an opportunity to better understand the Uluru Statement From the Heart, the process that had led to a referendum in 2023 and what a Voice to Parliament might entail. With the referendum approaching, it is important to understand why and what we are being asked to vote on and what implications this may have for Australia, and reconciliation more broadly, moving forward.
25 May Prof Melissa Castan
29 June Fr Frank Brennan, SJ
27 July A Panel of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples – names to be confirmed
Cost: $12.00 per session or $30.00 for all 3 Sessions. CSSV and CSSA members free of charge
Venue: Via Zoom – link to be provided
Enquiries: Kate Stilwell e:
Trybooking link.

New resource (May 2023) – Voice partnership and empowerment explained (informative digital flip book). Also, overview of main points on The Voice – Empowered Communities

Excellent powerpoint, prepared by Jenni and Barry Mitchell (Creative Ministries Network, Port Philip East Presbytery, Vic/Tas Synod, Uniting Church in Australia. Download at link.

Frequently Asked Questions – Rev Canon Glenn Loughrey.
Powerpoint presentations to accompany the Frequently Asked Questions.

Powerpoint resource on the Statement, by Rev Canon Glenn Loughrey

Referendum Information Booklet designed to be able to understand and to talk with others about the Statement from the Heart, by Rev Canon Glenn Loughrey

Unpacking the Statement from the Heart with Rev Canon Associate Professor Glenn Loughrey (and recorded by Initiatives of Change Australia) – really helpful to share & discuss with a group.

Uluru Statement Start a Yarn (keep an eye out for new dates)
The yarning circle concept is used by many First Nations peoples across the world. It’s a space for active listening and reflection. Join a yarning circle to learn more about First Nations culture and why the Uluru Statement and a First Nations Voice are so important.
Online, open to anyone.

The downloadable study guide on the Statement from the Heart was written by and for Second Peoples seeking to explore and pursue a truthful, just and meaningful relationship with First Peoples. Either on your own or in a group, you can explore over six sessions what First Peoples have said about Voice.Treaty.Truth in the Statement from the Heart. There is also a Facilitator’s Companion Guide for a study group. (Author Tim Molineux, Justice and International Mission, Vic/Tas UCA Synod).

A voice in the wilderness 8 part study guide on the Statement from the Heart (free downloadable PDF) written by Celia Kemp, Anglican Board of Mission’s Reconciliation Coordinator. As well there is a leader’s guide.

Crying Out – A Response to Exploring the Statement from the Heart and Care for the Environment
(Roman Catholic and Uniting Church dialogue in South Australia)
Downloadable resources.

WEBSITES (Glenn Loughrey’s compilation)
Glenn’s website has excellent resources.
Other websites he’s recommended:        


Facebook, Youtube.has really helpful online resources that can be used by individuals and congregations.

Rev Canon Garry Deverell’s presentation at the Walking Together conference (text): How can churches respond to their colonial heritage?

Boyer Lecture 2022 – Noel Pearson
Indigenous community leader, lawyer, academic and land rights activist Noel Pearson reflects on ‘who we were and who we can be’.
(click on link)


Everything you need to know about the Referendum and the Voice (Youtube clip)
(the link will take you to Youtube for an excellent 13.41 introductory video)

Professor Anne Pattel-Gray‘s seminar is a call to the churches to support a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. 

Rev Canon Dr Garry Deverell‘s seminar is a lecture on the Uluru Statement and the design of the Voice. Garry is a Lecturer and Research Fellow, School of Indigenous Studies, University of Divinity.

A seminar on the Uluru Statement with Rev Canon Dr Garry Deverell, Rev Dr Katalina Tahaafe-Williams and Rev Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi.

A seminar on the Statement with Nathan Tyson, Anaiwon/ Gomeroi man and Manager, First Peoples Strategy and Engagement in the NSW/ACT Synod of the Uniting Church, the Rev Emily Hayes, UCA minister at John Flynn Memorial Church, Alice Springs, NT, Dr Laura Rademaker, Historian at Australian National University, whose book Found in Translation: Many Meanings on a North Australian Mission was awarded the 2020 Hancock Prize and the Rev Tim Matton-Johnson, Panninher man, currently living on Mumirimina country (Kutalayna: Lower Jordon river Valley, TAS.: at least 40,000 years of continuous human occupation.) Now retired; formally a UAICC minister.

An excellent introductory video to the Statement and Referendum

On Monday, 20 February 2023, St Paul’s Cathedral hosted a panel discussion on the Voice to Parliament and its significance ahead of the upcoming national referendum. The event featured high-level experts in the field of Indigenous rights and cultural understanding, Canadian First Nations Leaders Lewis Cardinal, Chief Lee Crowchild and Rainbow Cardinal, as well as the Cathedral’s First Nations Canon, Uncle Glenn Loughrey.

On Youtube here. Professor Anne Pattel-Gray shares her insights into Australia’s First Nations religious and spiritual beliefs and practices that form the core of her theology. She explained how we are all held captive by our colonial heritage and that our theological education and institutions require liberation in order to be set free. She further explained the process to decolonise biblical and theological narratives and challenge Christians to become the radical change that is so desperately needed to transform a Nation.

Thomas Mayor is a Torres Strait Islander born on Larrakia Country in Darwin.

History, Truth Telling, & The Uluru Statement from the Heart (webinar by Thursday 21 July 2022, now available on Youtube). An initiative of the Uniting Church National History Society in association with the University of Divinity and the School of Indigenous Studies, bringing together Indigenous leaders and historians.

Rev Dr Chris Budden, Voice.Treaty.Truth symposium

Auntie Denise Champion, Voice.Treaty.Truth symposium

Aunty Prof Dr Anne Pattel-Gray: Statement from the Heart

Thomas Mayor speaking to ‘not-for-profits’ about the Referendum. ‘while the Voice would not give Indigenous groups any power to make or block legislation, it would mean they could less easily be dismissed, silenced, or ignored’.
The time has come…After 15 years of promises. The time has come for a referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament.
Noel Pearson, 2022 Boyer Lecture on Constitutional Reform

Related resources and links

A most insightful article by Walter Brueggemann on the Ethical Dignity of the Other, tracking the way ‘European’ colonisation was wholly unappreciative of local, native cultures and learning. That lack of appreciation led to the conclusion that “other peoples” were the unacceptable “other,” that is, different in ways that were therefore unfamiliar, unwelcome and dangerous. It led to the dismissal and/or elimination of the “other” that did not meet European expectations and requirements, taking the form of colonialism, enslavement, or genocide.

Chris Budden, Following Jesus in invaded space:doing theology on Aboriginal land.
Chris Budden, Why indigenous sovereignty should matter to Christians

Finding the Heart of the Nation by Thomas Mayor

Statements from the soul: The moral case for the Uluru Statement from the Heart edited by Shireen Morris.
A collection of passionate essays from religious leaders arguing for a First Nations Voice to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution

In this ground-breaking collection of essays, diverse religious leaders and thinkers come together to advocate for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Contributors from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities powerfully convey why a First Nations voice to parliament is necessary not only legally and politically, but also morally. Drawing on their unique spiritual beliefs, they argue that the Uluru Statement offers a profound opportunity to heal the wrongs of the past and ensure a better future for all Australians. A rallying cry of support across religious and political divisions, Statements from the Soul shows that the Uluru Statement goes to the heart of who we are as a country and is essential to reconciliation.
With a foreword by Noel Pearson and preface by Henry Pinskier. Contributors are Sabah Rind, Wesam Charkawi, Fiona Jose, Sardar Ajmer Singh Gill, Prakruthi Mysore Gururaj, Bhikkhu Sujato, Stan Grant, Antonios Kaldas, Ralph Genende, Russell Broadbent, Karina Okotel, Kanishka Raffel, Peter Comensoli, Anthony Ekpo, David Saperstein and Rowan Williams.
Listen to the ABC podcast with Stan Grant about the book.

Fr Frank Brennan, a revised version available in May 2023.
This revised edition includes an Epilogue titled The Failed Quest for Bipartisanship on the Voice that addresses the new discussions, plus additional Appendices.


First People’s Assembly
The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria is the independent and democratically elected body to represent Traditional Owners of Country and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Victoria.

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS)
VALS has partnered with Amnesty Victoria on their #raise the age campaign for the Victorian election. Amnesty has launched a form that allows Victorians to email their local candidates. You can check it out here.

Campaign: #Raise the Age
Did you know? In Australia, children as young as 10 years are being sent to prison. Discover what this campaign is about.
Jamie Thom (Brunswick UC) recently made this ppt presentation.

Sheena Watt is a member of the Victorian Parliament, representing the Northern Metropolitan Region in the Legislative Council. She is the first Aboriginal Australian woman to represent the Australian Labor Party in the Parliament of Victoria.
Prior to becoming a member of Parliament, Sheena was an Executive Manager at AFL SportsReady and on the Board of Directors for some of the most important community organisations in Victoria.
Sheena has extensive experience in Aboriginal Affairs, health and employment and has a strong commitment to advocate for those who face poverty, discrimination, or disadvantage. She is committed to breaking down structural inequality and supporting healthy and connected communities.

Yoorrook is the first formal truth-telling body for First Peoples in Australia. Yoorrook means “truth” in Wemba Wemba. The Commission was established in May 2021 to hear, record and address the truths about First Peoples’ experiences of colonisation in Victoria since 1788 to now. Yoorrook has summarised the core elements of the Commission’s mandate into three central goals:
Truth – Yoorrook will create a lasting public record of historic and ongoing systemic injustice, how it came to occur and who
or what is responsible. It will draw on a wide range of sources and take a holistic approach that recognises both the diversity, commonalities, and continuities of First Peoples’ experiences.
Understanding – By deep listening to the voices of First Peoples, hearing their experiences, and learning how culture has evolved and survived amid trauma, Yoorrook will enable the broader Victorian community to understand the links between past, present and future.
Transformation – Yoorrook will propose changes to laws, institutions and systems which can be taken up through treaty negotiations and other ways to build new relationships between all Victorians, including by holding the State accountable. These reforms must remedy injustices against First Peoples so that Victoria can turn a new page.
Read the interim report here.
The report details Elders’ experiences of historical and ongoing systemic injustice at the individual, family, community and state level organised under eleven key themes:

  1.  Dispossession and dislocation
    Listen to Aunty Stephanie Charles at the Swan Hill Yarning Circle
  2. Political exclusion, representation and resistance
    Listen to Geoff Clark and Jidah Clark at the Gariwerd (Halls Gap) Yarning Circle
  3. Families, kinship and stolen children
    Listen to Uncle Johnny Lovett yarning in Hamilton
  4. Stolen wages and economic marginalisation
  5. Legal injustice and incarceration
    Listen to Aunty Liz Heta at the Wodonga Yarning Circle
    Listen to Braydon Saunders yarning at Lake Condah 
    Listen to Aunty Tina Wright yarning at Lake Condah
  6. Injuries to body and spirit
    Listen to Marjorie Thorpe at the Lake Tyers Elders’ Yarning Circle Note: This video contains images of people who may be deceased.
  7. Disrespect and denial of culture
  8. Damage to, and denial of country
    Listen to Uncle Possum Clarke-Ugle at the Framlingham Elders’ Yarning Circle
    Listen to Tati Tati Traditional Owners at Robinvale
  9. Stolen and misused knowledge, culture and data
  10. A colonial education system
  11. Public silencing and denial 

In addition to the issues of concern raised by Elders, the first interim report outlines the foundational work of the Yoorrook Justice Commission in establishing culturally appropriate and trauma-informed processes to ensure participant safety and wellbeing including:

  • developing a methodology based on Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing  
  • adopting terms from Victorian First Peoples’ languages for key processes
  • designing a social and emotional wellbeing support model that uses the strengths, resilience and connectedness of First Peoples and their communities to provide a safe, supportive and culturally appropriate forum for First Peoples 
  • developing Indigenous Data Sovereignty and data governance policies and systems to make sure First Peoples keep control over how their information is used
  • designing our nuther-mooyoop (submissions) and wurrek tyerrang (hearing) processes to minimise trauma and provide First Peoples with options for how they can engage with Yoorrook’s inquiry
  • making sure our premises and communications are culturally appropriate  

Finally, the report proposes that the next phase of Yoorrook’s work focus on two priority areas — state-sanctioned removal of First Peoples’ children from their families, and the continuing injustices experienced by First People in the criminal justice system.

Contact: Yoorrook, 54 Wellington Street Collingwood
Facebook August e-news Website Email

Possible Acknowledgement of Country
(hard hitting but part of ‘truth telling’ that needs to happen)
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we work and pay our respects to Indigenous Elders past, present and emerging. 
Sovereignty has never been ceded. It always was and always will be, Aboriginal land.
We recognise the past atrocities against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of this land and that Australia was founded on the genocide and dispossession of First Nations people. 
We acknowledge that colonial structures and policies remain in place today and recognise the ongoing struggles of First Nations people in dismantling those structures. 
The struggle to seek justice, to remember and address this nation’s past is ongoing and is a necessary requirement for individual and collective healing process.
We support the Uluru Statement from the Heart to achieve justice, recognition and respect for First Nations people and a referendum to enshrine a First Nations Voice in the Constitution. 
We accept the invitation contained in the Statement to walk together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

Source: Australian Centre for International Justice,