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Damien Freeman and Fr Frank Brennan SJ at the launch of their books at ACU on Tuesday (The Catholic Weekly/Adam Wesselinoff)

A failure of process, a shift in the nation’s temper and the city-regions divide were among factors contributing to the defeat of the Voice to Parliament referendum, leading Yes proponents said at the launch of two new books. Source: The Catholic Weekly. 

Fr Frank Brennan SJ and Damien Freeman, the authors of Lessons from Our Failure to Build a Constitutional Bridge in the 2023 Referendum and The End of Settlement, both published by Connor Court, were joined by senior Australian Catholic University staff and academics, members of parliament, and a large, engaged audience for the launch at North Sydney’s Peter Cosgrove Centre on Tuesday. 

Dr Freeman and Fr Brennan were joined by Kelly Humphrey, ACU Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous), and Dr Lisa Buxton, executive officer of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, for a panel discussion. 

ACU Chancellor Martin Daubney travelled from Brisbane to launch the two books, and in extensive opening remarks compared them to the Lamentations of Jeremiah, written to mourn the sack of Jerusalem in the sixth century BC. 

Like Jeremiah’s Lamentations, the chancellor said, the books by Dr Freeman and Fr Brennan “will themselves stand as important historical-social records which provide both context and meaning to the events which Australians watched unfold in the months leading up to the referendum in October 2023.” 

The two new releases “don’t make for comfortable reading,” but like the prophet’s poems of grief, express a spirit of “yearning for reconciliation and the belief in God’s faithfulness,” Daubney said. 

Describing Dr Freeman’s The End of Settlement as “a book for our times,” the chancellor said it had deep lessons to teach about the risks of polarisation, and the abandonment of agreement-seeking “settlement politics.” 

Fr Brennan’s book, Lessons from Our Failure to Build a Constitutional Bridge in the 2023 Referendum, could have been more elegantly titled, “I told you so,” the chancellor quipped. 


Lamentations and hope at ACU Voice Referendum book launch (By Adam Wesselinoff, The Catholic Weekly)