Referendum Reflection

Common Grace National Director, Gershon Nimbalker, reflects on the recent Voice referendum result.

The world feels heavy at the moment.  Just over a week ago Australia voted against recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our constitution through a voice to parliament.

In doing so, Australia has failed to accept the gracious hand that was extended to it. The messiness at the heart of the Australian story, our failure to properly recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, remains unresolved.

I find myself feeling so sad. Sad for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around the country who are grieving this loss, sad for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, team and board members, who helped lead and shape our campaign, sad for our Common Grace movement and those throughout the country who extended themselves to see a different outcome, and sad for our nation.

If you haven’t read it yet, I’d like to share with you the heartfelt response from Safina and Bianca, written on behalf of and to our movement. It’s heartbreaking – but also hopeful.

Graciously mingling with my sadness is a deep sense of gratitude. I’m grateful for you. Thank you for your efforts in campaigning with us. You were with us in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

This movement had conversations, hosted events, ran table talks, wore badges, volunteered at polling booths, and prayed fervently alongside us. You donated your time, your energy, and your resources. We've begun to build the muscles that will help us bring about change.

Encouragingly as well, we were not alone. More than 50,000 people across the country volunteered for the Yes campaign, more than 1 million calls were made, and 5.7 million Australians voted Yes – including the majority of Christians.

In the words of Safina and Bianca, “We are proud that we took the time to deeply listen to and be led by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders; of centering the past and present calls for love and justice; of having countless conversations and praying faithfully. Even as we lament, we draw solace and comfort from this: that we still stand united, and that there are so many of us willing to act together for justice.”

I’m reminded yet again, that in a world filled with brokenness, – the followers of Jesus – formed by our faith, pursuing the path of love and justice, and held by a transcendent hope – are a pointer to the goodness that God intends for us all.

We will keep pointing to this goodness. As we listen and are led by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian leaders, we will continue to work with you to pursue justice. We know that children should be safe, free, and flourishing, not held in detention – so we will work to raise the age. We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should enjoy the same quality of life as their non-Indigenous peers, so we will work to close the gap. And we know that across Australia, the oldest continuous living cultures in the world should be embraced and celebrated as a foundational part of our national identity, so we will continue to uphold the calls of the Uluru Statement of the Heart - voice, treaty and truth.

Gershon Nimbalker is the National Director of Common Grace and founder of Sojourners Social Change Consultants. He has more than 15 years of experience working in advocacy, policy and research, as well as leading and growing grass roots movements to campaign on issues of social justice. Gershon lives on the lands of Awabakal peoples in Newcastle, NSW with his young family.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice