2830

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Submission Number
2830
Participant
Christians For Justice Ltd
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Christians for Justice Ltd
245 Glenmore Road
Paddington NSW 2021
info@commongrace.org.au
www.commongrace.org.au

Common Grace Submission
Re: Interim Report to the Australian Government:
Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process

The Common Grace Movement

Common Grace is a growing movement of over 50,000 Australians pursuing Jesus and
justice. We are a grassroots movement navigating denominational, theological, and political
differences to come together for the common good, discover common ground and share in
common grace. Common Grace focuses on four justice areas: Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander justice; Creation & Climate justice; justice for Refugees and People Seeking
Asylum; and Domestic & Family Violence justice.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Voices

Common Grace has a commitment to being led by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Christian Leaders to pursue friendship and Reconciliation in our lifetime.

The CEO of Common Grace is an Aboriginal Christian Leader, Wakka Wakka woman
Brooke Prentis. Common Grace’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Coordinator
is Gomeroi woman Bianca Manning. Every year, in the lead up to 26 January, Common
Grace supports the vision of Senior Aboriginal Christian Leader Aunty Jean Phillips through
the #ChangeTheHeart services. Common Grace is informed by, and seeks to amplify the
voices of a diverse range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christian Leaders from
right across these lands now called Australia.

Common Grace brings a unique and important voice to be consulted and heard as 54% of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples identify as Christian 1, and some Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander communities are 100% Christian.

Our Position

We support a constitutionally enshrined National Indigenous Voice to the Australian Federal
Government and Parliament.

1 2071.0 Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia – Stories from the Census, 2016.

Released 11:30am 28/06/2017 Religion in Australia, 2016. Accessed 29 April 2021.
Christians for Justice Ltd
245 Glenmore Road
Paddington NSW 2021
info@commongrace.org.au
www.commongrace.org.au
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across these lands now called Australia have
been calling for greater self-determination and their voices to be truly heard for the past two
centuries. Many were compelled by their faith - Aboriginal Christian Leaders like William
Cooper, Sir Pastor Doug Nicholls, Pearl Gibbs, and many who are still alive today including
Senior Aboriginal Christian Leader Aunty Jean Phillips. These calls go back as far as the
1887 Maloga Petition, Jimmy Clements and John Noble in their 1927 protest at opening of
Canberra Parliament House, William Cooper's 1937 Petition to King George VI, the 1963
Yirrkala Bark Petitions, the 1988 Barunga Statement, the year 2000 Council for Aboriginal
Reconciliation’s Australian Declaration towards Reconciliation, the Statement from the Heart
in 2017, and many more. We follow their example and raise our voices to appeal for justice.

Truth, Treaties, Voice

National truth-telling, internationally recognised treaty and treaties, and an enshrined Voice
to Parliament are interconnected and all three are priorities to Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples and key elements of the Statement from the Heart. We do not believe the
Statement from the Heart sets out an order for these three calls. In fact, there have been
louder and longer calls for Treaty and Truth-Telling Commission. Therefore, treaty and truth-
telling should precede the call for a National Indigenous Voice.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were promised a Treaty in 1988, and are still
waiting for that promise to be fulfilled. Without national truth-telling, in the form of a Truth-
Telling Commission, we would lack the shared understanding needed to appropriately inform
the processes of Treaty and Voice. Our fear is that if the National Indigenous Voice is
established first, the urgency of treaty and truth-telling will be dismissed.

During NAIDOC Week 2019, Common Grace launched a petition urging the Commonwealth
Government to take action for Truth, Treaties and Voice. 646 Australian Christians signed
this petition. Now in 2021, we are re-launching this petition, again calling for a national Truth-
Telling Commission, International recognised Treaty and Treaties, the establishment of an
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to and in Parliament.

In fact, Common Grace has begun the process of truth-telling; in 2019, we ran a Truth
Justice and Conciliation Commission led by Aunty Jean Phillips and Brooke Prentis. Brooke
modelled the Commission from the South African and Canadian models of Truth Telling
Commissions. We believe we were the first people in Australia to hold a Truth Telling
Commission. We are happy to share this model with the rest of Australia.
Christians for Justice Ltd
245 Glenmore Road
Paddington NSW 2021
info@commongrace.org.au
www.commongrace.org.au

Recommendation 1: A national Truth-Telling Commission, and Treaty and Treaties,
should precede the call for a National Indigenous Voice.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) (ratified in
Australia in 2009) should inform areas of law, policy and practice so that the rights of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities are not compromised. We
call the Australian Government to execute their commitment to the UNDRIP, including
through the establishment of an enshrined Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The following
Articles are particularly pertinent to a National Voice:
● Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they
freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and
cultural development. (Article 3);
● Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to
autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as
well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions. (Article 4);
● Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters
which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in
accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own
indigenous decision-making institutions. (Article 18);
● States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples
concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free,
prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or
administrative measures that may affect them. (Article 19). (United Nations, 2008)

Recommendation 2: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples must be implemented and inform a National Indigenous Voice.

Evidence-based Practice

Evidence-based practice is essential when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples. In recent decades paternalistic, top down, one size fits all approaches have been
the norm in Indigenous policy making. This has been to the severe detriment of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, and Australia as a whole.

Evidence-based research of best practice when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples and communities includes features of: community control; local leadership;
incorporating Indigenous knowledge and practice frameworks; collaboration; process over
Christians for Justice Ltd
245 Glenmore Road
Paddington NSW 2021
info@commongrace.org.au
www.commongrace.org.au
outcome; cultural safety; trust; empowerment; and flexibility. Enshrining a First Nations Voice
to Parliament is one step towards working with, not for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples.

Recommendation 3: Evidence-based practice needs to be at the centre of the
formation process and outworking of a National Indigenous Voice.

Model for the Voice

The concept of a National Indigenous Voice is not a new one. Previous national Indigenous
representative bodies have included the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, the
Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCATSI),
the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC), the National Aboriginal Conference
(NAC) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). The most recent
of these, the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples (2010 - 2019), had a similar
purpose to the currently proposed National Indigenous Voice - as an independent national
Indigenous representative, advisory and advocacy group to the Australian Government. The
National Congress had a model of elected Aboriginal voices, with 120 delegates. This model
worked however was defunded by previous governments much to the heartbreak of
Aboriginal peoples. We must learn the lessons of the past around Voice, and apply these
lessons to the current proposed National Indigenous Voice. Many non-Indigenous peoples
do not know previous models actually existed.

The Indigenous Voice to the Australian Federal Government and Parliament should be one
national Voice. Separating the Voice to state and territory boundaries would be problematic,
because it would further solidify imposed colonial state and territory lines, crossing the
boundaries of the over 300 Aboriginal nations across these lands now called Australia. This
will continue to divide Aboriginal peoples in the same way that the state and territory
boundaries divided Aboriginal nations.

The current proposal is for a maximum of 18 Indigenous members (2 members for each
state and territory, 2 for the Torres Strait Islands), there is no evidence base for this number.
We recommend the number of members be increased to reflect the diversity of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander opinion and the over 300 Aboriginal nations, and over 100 islands
in the Torres Strait it will be representing. The membership model also needs to take into
account the Torres Strait Islander population living on mainland Australia.

The framework of the National Indigenous Voice needs to be presented and communicated
in a way that is easily understood by all of our communities, and should not be overly
complicated or text heavy.
Christians for Justice Ltd
245 Glenmore Road
Paddington NSW 2021
info@commongrace.org.au
www.commongrace.org.au

Recommendation 4: The National Indigenous Voice to the Australian Federal
Government and Parliament should be one national Voice, not separated into State
and Territory boundaries.

Recommendation 5: The number of members in the National Voice should be
increased to reflect the diversity of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander
peoples.

Commitment to a Referendum

The government must honour its election commitment to a referendum once the model for
the Voice has been settled. We are disappointed that the commitment for a referendum has
not occurred in this term of government.

We also note that a referendum should include the removal of Section 25 from the Australian
Constitution, which allows for provision to disqualify people from voting based on race.

Recommendation 6: The government must honour its election commitment to a
referendum once the model for the Voice has been settled.

Recommendation 7: Any referendum must include the removal of Section 25 from the
Australian Constitution.

Constitutional and Legislative Reform

Enshrining the National Indigenous Voice into the Australian constitution is a necessary step.
It will help to ensure a long-term outcome, not swayed by partisan politics.

As Brooke Prentis has stated previously, “If we are to mature as a nation, then we have to
rewrite the constitution.”

In regards to legislative reform, we don't want the Voice to come through a legislative
process, as this allows the government of the day to dissolve the Voice at their discretion.
However significant legislative reform is required at both a Federal and State and Territory
level to see justice for First Nations peoples. For example the protection of sacred sites,
raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years of age, increased funding of the
new closing the gap targets, and the immediate implementation of all 339 Recommendations
from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Christians for Justice Ltd
245 Glenmore Road
Paddington NSW 2021
info@commongrace.org.au
www.commongrace.org.au

Recommendation 7: Implementation of a National Voice should include constitutional
and legislative reform.

Prioritise Grassroots Leadership

As a grassroots organisation, being led by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Christian leaders who are grassroots leaders in their communities, we know the
immeasurable value of local First Nations leadership. We believe that for significant change
to occur, the voices of grassroots leaders must be prioritised in the National Voice. These
voices must be selected by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Recommendation 8: Grassroots leaders must be prioritised in the National Indigenous
Voice.

Recommendation Summary

Recommendation 1 A national Truth-Telling Commission, and Treaty and Treaties,
should precede the call for a National Indigenous Voice.

Recommendation 2 The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples must be implemented and inform a National Indigenous
Voice.

Recommendation 3 Evidence-based practice needs to be at the centre of the formation
process and outworking of a National Indigenous Voice.

Recommendation 4 The National Indigenous Voice to the Australian Federal
Government and Parliament should be one national Voice, not
separated into State and Territory boundaries.

Recommendation 5 The number of members in the National Voice should be increased
to reflect the diversity of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait
Islander peoples.

Recommendation 6 The government must honour its election commitment to a
referendum once the model for the Voice has been settled.

Recommendation 7 Any referendum must include the removal of Section 25 from the
Australian Constitution.

Recommendation 8 Implementation of a National Voice should include constitutional
and legislative reform.

Recommendation 9 Grassroots leaders must be prioritised in the National Indigenous
Voice.
Christians for Justice Ltd
245 Glenmore Road
Paddington NSW 2021
info@commongrace.org.au
www.commongrace.org.au

Conclusion

We pray that the hearts, ears and minds of all Australians, particularly our leaders, would be
open to deeply listen to, learn from, and act justly towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples in this call for an Indigenous Voice, along with Treaty and Truth-Telling.

Should a public inquiry be called for the presentation of submissions, Common Grace would
welcome an invitation. We would invite Australia’s most senior Aboriginal Christian Leader
Aunty Jean Phillips to present with Brooke Prentis (Common Grace, CEO) and Bianca
Manning (Common Grace, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Justice Coordinator).

Please take a moment to read and pray The Redfern Prayer, written by Pastor Uncle Ray
Minniecon supplied with permission https://www.commongrace.org.au/the_redfern_prayer