Reconciliation and Referendum

Statement from the Heart: Voice. Treaty. Truth.

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)]

Resourcing Event
October 22nd, 2022, 9.30am – 4.45pm
Inaugural First People’s Theological Conference (Sydney, & also online). An opportunity to hear the voices and perspectives of First Peoples on issues relating to the Uniting Church, Theology, and Reconciliation.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Rev. Mark Kickett, Interim National Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).
  • Rev. Dr Garry Deverell, Lecturer and Research Fellow, School of Indigenous Studies, University of Divinity.
  • Professor Dr Anne Pattel-Gray, Head of the School of Indigenous Studies with University of Divinity.

Cost: in person $65/$50 concession; Digital Access ticket $35.
Registration on Eventbrite


Yoorrook Commission
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
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Statement from the Heart
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.

The VCC website will continue to make links to resources that will be helpful for Member Churches and congregations including:

Statement from the Heart website

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.

The NCCA has signed a joint resolution in support of the Uluru Statement, 27th May 2022.
“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 now be 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 action to hold a referendum on a First Nations Voice.” 

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

Related resources and links

From the Heart
From the Heart 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”.
Facebook, Youtube.

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.

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