At Jesuit Social Services we support a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.

We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which we live and work, who have never ceded their sovereignty. We acknowledge and respect the long histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their connection to land and sea, and their stewardship of these precious gifts that we now share.

We are proud that Australia is home to the oldest continuing living culture in the world. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have cared for and been connected to Country for more than 60,000 years. In this, they have enriched the lives of all Australians.

At Jesuit Social Services we work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. They live in different situations and belong to many language groups. We acknowledge and respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures in their rich diversity.

Since the Uluru Statement from the Heart was presented to the Australian people in 2017, we have endorsed and supported it. The thorough process, which involved the 16-member Referendum Council appointed by the then Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition meeting with more than 1,200 people around the country, gives it authority.

This statement includes calls for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament. It calls also for a Makarrata Commission. This would enable truth-telling about our history and lay the foundation for agreement-making (treaties) between Federal and State governments and First Nations peoples.

In the words of the Statement, ‘with substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood’.

The establishment of a First Nations Voice will give Indigenous communities a way of informing policy and legal decisions that affect their lives. With Reconciliation Australia, we believe that the establishment of the Voice will not only recognise the special place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s history, but also ensure that it can’t be shut down by future Governments.

The Voice will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in determining their own lives. Ultimately it will make a contribution towards shaping a society in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians can join hands together, acknowledging the past and looking to the future.

In the Jesuit Social Services’ Reconciliation Action Plan, we imagine reconciliation as walking alongside, respecting and sharing our learning with one another. In this world Treaty will be achieved, truth-telling will have been done, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will enjoy the same good health and living standards as the rest of society.

We acknowledge that Australians have different opinions about the Voice. Our position at Jesuit Social Services is clear – we are convinced that the establishment of the Voice will be a welcome step towards justice and reconciliation.

Reconciliation commits us to address all the many disadvantages which in our work at Jesuit Social Services we see every day. They include the disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our criminal justice systems. This has its root in a history of personal and structural relationships, including racism.

The path of reconciliation requires continuing investment to implement the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap. It will also require committing adequate resources to Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in designing, leading and delivering services and programs, They are best equipped to meet the needs of their communities.

Voting ‘yes’ in the Referendum will enable we Australians to commit ourselves to shape a nation that makes reparations for past and present wrongs, works towards closing the gap, and makes a lasting difference in the lives of its people.