A Light on the Hill

The Voice – BPUC announcement (14.5.23)

Presented by Mark Waters

Uncle Lewis O’Brien, a significant Kaurna Elder taught me that when non-Aboriginal people look at a proposition or a problem they immediately divide into camps with a Yes or No response.

The Kaurna people were the teachers and knowledge keepers. They looked at the brain and called it muka muka because it appeared in two halves.

What that means for decision making in the Aboriginal community is that we should think both ways. In other words look at a problem from all sides before resolving which direction to take.

When you look at Mount Lofty from Uraidla or from the Adelaide Plains, you see different perspectives, but it is obviously still the same mountain. 

I have been asked to speak to you today about the Aboriginal Voice to Parliament and the upcoming Referendum on the Australian Constitution that is likely to be held by November this year.

A Referendum is the people’s choice. We should hold respectful conversations as it is beholden upon us to get informed. And we need to look at this reform from all angles. 

All perspectives are relevant; all questions are legitimate; all positions are respected. 

Lidia Thorpe wants to make sure that the Voice doesn’t cede sovereignty. Megan David, Professor Anne Twomey and George Williams, leading Constitutional lawyers in this country, all say that the Voice will not cede sovereignty, but it is important that Lidia is listened to in holding her position.

Jacinta Price wants alcohol use, domestic and family violence and crime in her community fixed; I agree with her; I want these things fixed too.

She doesn’t want a huge bureaucracy; I agree with her.

She doesn’t want latte sipping liberals from inner Melbourne dictating what should happen for her community; I agree with her.

Peter Dutton wants to strengthen regional Aboriginal voices; I agree with him.

Andrew Bolt doesn’t want to see division created within the Australian Constitution based upon race; I agree with him.

And all of these perspectives have alternate perspectives too. 

Having spent the last 13 years in the reconciliation movement, it will come as no surprise to you that I will vote “Yes” for the Voice. I will do so for a multitude of reasons. 

But as we look at this people’s movement, there are two reasons that I will outline here. 

Firstly, the Liberal Party started a bi-partisan process that led to the Uluru Statement from the Heart which has asked for the Voice. This is the unfinished business of the 1967 Referendum. 

Secondly, the Uniting Church in Australia through our National Assembly and the National Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress have supported the Voice. That’s good enough for me. 

The Social Justice and Action Group at Brougham Place has asked the Church Council to purchase a Yes banner to go out the front of the church. 

This would show that we are joining the people’s movement to change our Constitution to recognise Aboriginal people as the first peoples of this land and that we support self-determination for Aboriginal people.

Council has agreed to this request and in so doing also wanted to recognise that all of your perspectives in relation to the Voice are heard and understood as valid. Whether your position is unsure, against or for, let’s hear your voices and have a respectful conversation; it’s time for Brougham Place to talk together on these matters.

The Uniting Church stands with First Nations people for justice and supports a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament, fostering equal relationships and a better future. Learn more at https://uniting.church/voice/.

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