Australians must have their say on Voice to Parliament legislation “respectfully and cautiously” because “we are talking about the nation’s soul”, writes Fr Frank Brennan SJ. Source: The Australian.
(Last) Thursday, a crowd gathered in Parliament House declaring good news as the Attorney-General introduced a bill entitled the Constitution Alteration 2023. He quoted Senator Patrick Dodson, who said the bill “will be a moment of liberation for all of us”.
The public gallery was packed with rejoicing Indigenous leaders. The Government side of the House was packed to the gills with members in a celebratory mood. The Teals and crossbenchers were the same. But the Coalition benches were almost empty, and without much enthusiasm being displayed. A referendum needs mass support to succeed. We need to talk respectfully and cautiously as we are speaking about the nation’s soul.
On the same day the Constitution Alteration 2023 bill was introduced to the federal parliament, a joint statement was issued in Rome by the Vatican’s Dicasteries for Culture and Education and for Promoting Integral Human Development on the “Doctrine of Discovery”.
The Vatican officials said they had been “listening to Indigenous peoples” and “that the Church has heard the importance of addressing the concept referred to as the doctrine of discovery.”
This doctrine was espoused by European colonisers for hundreds of years as a justification for “settlers being granted an exclusive right to extinguish, either by purchase or conquest, the title to or possession of those lands by indigenous peoples”.
Often these colonisers invoked various 15th century papal decrees as authorisation, justification or excuse for their actions.
The Vatican authorities admitted “that these papal bulls did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of indigenous peoples”.
To date, there has been no process for the public to have their say on the constitutional amendment proposed by the Prime Minister at Garma in July last year. To date, there has been little, or no, engagement between the two sides of the parliament. Whatever past failings in process and the misunderstandings caused by the proposed wording, we all need to commit to the restricted one month process we will now be allowed by the Government, when we can all have our say, putting submissions to the parliamentary committee, and when some will have the opportunity to give evidence.
Indigenous voice to parliament: We need more respect as we debate about our ‘nation’s soul’ (By Fr Frank Brennan SJ, The Australian)
Liberal blueprint ‘to make Indigenous voice to parliament work’ (The Australian)