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Yes and No: Christians’ perspectives on the Voice to Parliament

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Photo credit: Pexels (Brett Sayles)

Julie Bell is a Christian mother of four and business owner with a background in nursing and mission work. She is passionate about the Voice.

On a sunny Saturday morning, Julie sits in her home in Melbourne’s outer-east discussing why she’s voting yes.

“I think if I could come up with a reason to vote yes, more than anything, it would be with the word listen. And that is the thing that Aboriginal people have asked for in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, is to be listened to,” she said.

Julie said the Statement is about Makarrata, the “coming together after a struggle” to “listen heart to heart with one another”.

The Uluru Statement calls Makarrata the “culmination” of their agenda and calls for a Makarrata Commission to “supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about [their] history”.

She said if you can’t tell the truth about the “atrocities that were committed” without being gaslit or dismissed, there “can’t be reconciliation”.

“Reconciliation takes repentance and repentance takes truth,” she said.

Julie believes Christians are called to the “ministry of reconciliation” talked about by Apostle Paul in the Bible.

Claiming the Uluru Statement is 26 pages and if the Voice goes through “it’s going to mean bad things for white people” is a mean-spirited mentality, she said, and not the heart or “spirit of reconciliation at all”.

“If there has been racism, and you try to correct that and bring reconciliation and healing, if you call that racism, you're flipping it. And you're reversing victim and offender which is a bullying tactic called DAVAO and it's very well understood in domestic violence treatment circles,” she said.

Julie started crying when she said the lack of listening and the idea there’s nefarious intent behind the Uluru statement is “a continuation of white violence” and “really disgusting”.

Julie grew up in New Zealand and said their Treaty of Waitangi “really does secure some bedrock constitutional rights from the First Nations people of New Zealand”.

“We need treaty in Australia. We don't have treaty, but the voice is a start,” she said.

Tim Van der Veen is a Christian father of four and business owner.

He is also passionate about the voice.

While making coffee on the stove on a Sunday afternoon, Tim discusses slowly and decidedly why he is voting no.

“[The Voice] does nothing, in my opinion, to eliminate or relieve systemic racism, it's actually quite the opposite. It's embedding it into our Constitution,” he said.

It is “dangerous” to draw special attention to “one subgroup of a nation” in the country’s most important document, he said.

Tim learnt Warlpiri and spent several days in an Aboriginal community as part of his schooling.

The cultural understanding incorporated in his education gives him more exposure than most “big city” Australians or “white fella”, he said with a chuckle.

Though he said this exposure is small “by any stretch of the imagination”, he points out he’s still sceptical despite this educational conditioning.

Continuing to move about the kitchen, Tim compares reading the Ten Commandments without understanding their context, with reading the Uluru Statement without understanding the context accompanying documents provide.

“All of the accompanying documents and papers bundled together with the Uluru Statement of the Heart [sic] all provide valuable context and tone to which the statement is being made,” he said.

Tim said our “beloved leader” has tried to convince Australians that the Statement is “summarised on a one-pager”.

The documents released by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) via freedom of information (FOI) requests this year have sparked debate.

The 26-page document, contentiously said to be the “complete Statement” by Sky News’ Peta Credlin, was published in 2017 as part of the Referendum Council Final Report and is included in the FOI documents released by the NIAA.

“We've been called to reconciliation for a long time and there have been lots of measures that have been put in place,” he said.

“Until someone will actually say ‘this is what reconciliation looks like, this is when we know we've achieved reconciliation’, there's no end point to it.”

Tim said calling for reconciliation but not defining what it looks like gives him “no confidence to vote for anything”.

“There have been so many different advisory organisations that have failed,” he said.

Because the Voice will be enshrined in our constitution, Tim said “there’s no giving it a go.”

“So, there’s a lot of questions I have and I’m not convinced from the stuff that I’ve read that it’s going to deliver on any meaningful change,” he said.

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