Common Grace National Director, Gershon Nimbalker, reflects on the recent Voice referendum result.
Common Grace submission to the Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum, 21 April 2023
Dear Committee Secretariat,
Re: Inquiry into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023
A Christian response to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice and a call for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission to the Joint Select Committee on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum (Constitution Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) 2023)
The Common Grace Movement Common Grace is a movement of individuals, churches and communities pursuing Jesus and justice together for the flourishing of all people and all creation.
We are animated by a vision of the good that God intends for the world and we are committed to pursuing love, beauty and grace to help this be realised today.
God created this world, a common home, for all people and creation to flourish. A home where goodness and love and grace prevail. But the injustices that have pierced these lands have distanced us from God's good
intention. For true justice to prevail, where all of creation can enjoy the goodness that God intends, we need people to come together in common grace. We need to pursue Jesus and justice.
We dream of a future where our nation listens deeply to First Nations people and the truth of our history, where injustices are righted and the oldest continuous cultures in the world are celebrated.
We care for God’s beautiful creation, addressing climate change and ensuring the environment and generations to come flourish.
We embrace people seeking asylum with open hearts and open arms, pursuing peace, restoration and welcome.
We long for all households to be places of nurture, safety and support, where violence against women is eliminated.
This is a future where all the broken things are restored and reconciled to and through Jesus. A future where all people and all creation can flourish.
The gracious call of the Uluru Statement from the Heart
Right now, Australia has a once in a generation opportunity to move forward on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice. Together, we face a significant moment as a country to vote YES on a referendum for a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
We lament that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been seeking to be heard since 1788. Australia has consistently failed to listen.
We know too that Australia has not yet wrestled with the truth of our shared history, and has failed to establish treaties with its First Peoples.
We recognise Voice as an important step along the way to hearing and responding to the long standing calls to deeply listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the need to establish treaties, and the importance of national truth-telling.
On 26 May 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was issued from over 250 delegates gathered at the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention. The conversation at Uluru built on six months of discussions held around the country where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples considered five options presented in the Referendum Council’s discussion paper. When asked what constitutional recognition means to them, First Nations people in attendance told the Council they don’t want
recognition if it means a simple acknowledgement, but rather constitutional reform that makes a real difference in their communities.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart calls for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution as well as a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making and truth-telling about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.
A YES vote for Voice, alongside Treaties and Truth-Telling, will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are listened to on policy and legislative decisions that affect First Nations peoples and communities. This is a significant step towards true self-determination, creating tangible change on the justice issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Common Grace’s position
Common Grace appreciates the beautiful and gracious invitation that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
We honour the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices that have been speaking up since 1788, and mourn the fact that these voices have often not been listened to or taken seriously.
We acknowledge the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, peoples and perspectives, and the need to embrace this diversity.
We understand the need for urgent tangible action on injustice, rejecting tokenism and acknowledging that symbolic gestures alone are insufficient.
We acknowledge that sovereignty has never been ceded and recognise the long standing calls to listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the need to establish treaties, and the importance of national truth-telling.
And so we support a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to parliament as a step along the way to recognising these calls.
We believe that the pursuit of reconciliation and justice is fundamental to being people of love - the essence of being a follower of Jesus.
We know that true Reconciliation will be a gift and a blessing that will enrich the lives and cultures of all peoples who live across Australia and will contribute to our collective healing.
We commit to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to see a successful Yes vote in the upcoming referendum.
Common Grace’s active support of the YES vote in 2023
To ensure the referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament is successful, Common Grace is speaking to church leaders, quelling the doubts in our churches and in our communities, and showing people that every step towards reconciliation is a step towards justice and the enrichment of all Australians.
As Christians across these lands calling together for Voice and justice, we have heard God’s call to seek justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8) and believe that the pursuit of reconciliation and justice is at the heart of our discipleship, as we seek to follow Jesus and love our neighbour.
PO Box 132, Mayfield NSW 2304
Authorised by Gershon Nimbalker, Common Grace, Sydney.