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Submission Number
Public Affairs Commission, Anglican Church of Australia
Submission date
Main Submission Automated Transcript

Anglican Church of Australia
Public Affairs Commission


1. This submission is made on behalf of the Public Affairs Commission (PAC) of the
Anglican Church of Australia. The PAC is a body set up, amongst other matters, to
respond to aspects of public affairs as referred by the Primate, Standing Committee
or General Synod of the ACA or initiated by the PAC.

The views expressed in this submission are only the views of the PAC and should
not be taken to reflect the opinion of the ACA, the Primate, the Standing Committee
or any of the Dioceses. However, some of the information set out below includes
resolutions of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia which is the
primary policy-making body of the Anglican Church of Australia and usually meets
every three or four years.

2. The PAC supports the principles of a National Voice and Local and Regional Voices
as described in the Interim Report. It is vital that we seriously listen to and are guided
by the Voices of First Nations Peoples, which, as the wonderful Uluru Statement
notes, will be a gift to the country. However, the details of the design of the Voices
and the processes and timing to establish these are best left to First Nations people
and organisations to comment on from the perspectives of their cultures and
structures and what they believe are the best means of achieving self-determination.

3. A key point that the PAC, as a member of the wider community, wishes to make in
this submission is that the First Nations Voice structures need to have the status of
being entrenched in the Australian Constitution. The type of constitutional Voice
proposed will not be a third chamber of Parliament but a call for genuine consultation
and listening. It has been described as a modest proposal, a sign of the practical
and generous approach of the National Constitutional Convention which produced
the Uluru Statement.

4. In the light of the sad history of dispossession and damage suffered by First Nations
Peoples, there needs to finally be a means of including First Nations at the heart of
our foundational document, which is their rightful entitlement. This can work as a
clear sign of real change in the self-understanding of our nation that can embrace
the truth of our history. It needs to be entrenched in the constitution so it can be of
lasting significance and not able to be overridden by successive governments.

5. A constitutional Voice, while vitally important, must, however, not be seen as an end
in itself. The Uluru Statement also called for a process of truth-telling and for a
Makarrata and coming together. A Treaty or treaties are still part of the unfinished
business. A constitutional Voice First Nations Voice or Voices will be a significant
first step and sign of goodwill.

Resolutions passed in favour of constitutional recognition and entrenchment of the
First Nations Voice

ABN: 90 767 330 931 ● Suite 4, Level 5, 189 Kent Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Tel: +61 2 8267 2700 ● Fax: +61 2 8267 2727 ● www.anglican.org.au
Email: publicaffairs@anglican.org.au
6. The PAC and the General Synod of the Anglican Church have long supported the
constitutional recognition of First Nations people. For example, back in July 2014,
the following resolution was passed by the General Synod:

R54/14 Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

That this Synod:
1 welcomes the commitment by the Commonwealth Government to
promote the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Peoples and to seek a multi-party approach to such constitutional
2 supports the principles of reforming the Australian Constitution to
recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and to remove
provisions allowing governments to discriminate adversely against people
on the grounds of race;
3 commends the dioceses and church organisations who have produced
information and study guides, such as those found at
http://www.perth.anglican.org/visible-and-valued and
http://www.anglicanchurchsq.org.au (at Social Responsibilities Committee
page); and
4 encourages all Anglicans to study and engage with the issues concerning
constitutional recognition.

7. In early September 2017, the General Synod passed the following resolution
following the Uluru Statement:

R28/17 - First Nations’ Voice

The General Synod:
1. Supports the recommendation of the Referendum Council for a
constitutionally-entrenched First Nations' Voice to the Commonwealth
2. Encourages the governments in Australia to seek to negotiate in good faith
with First Nations’ Peoples towards treaties or other similar forms of
3. Requests the General Secretary to convey this resolution to the Prime
Minister, State Premiers, and Leaders of the Opposition;
4. Requests the Public Affairs Commission in consultation with NATSIAC to
prepare resources, including summaries and theological reflections for use
by Anglican parishes, schools and organisations, on the Referendum
Council Report, on any subsequent referendum questions and on the
progress of treaty or similar negotiations.

A very similar resolution was passed by the Perth Anglican Synod in early October

8. Following the Federal Government’s initial disappointing response to the
recommendation of a constitutionally-entrenched First Nations Voice as called for in
the Uluru Statement, the Adelaide Anglican Synod in October 2017 passed the
following resolution:

“That this Synod expresses its disappointment that the Federal Government has
rejected the proposal by the ‘Reconciliation Council’ of a 'National Indigenous

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Representative Assembly – A First Nations Voice' to be enshrined in the
Australian Constitution and encourages the Federal Government to reconsider
its position.”

9. Most important are the resolutions from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Anglican Council (NATSIAC), the peak organisation for Anglican Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islanders. These have also called for a constitutional Voice. At its
2015 Gathering, NATSIAC resolved:

“NATSIAC supports the campaign for Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first peoples of this nation. We strongly
endorse the removal of the discriminatory sections of the Constitution and the
addition, after appropriate consultation, of any other section that will further
strengthen the culture, values and standing of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander
peoples, holding them as equals and acknowledging the contribution they make
to this nation.
We would anticipate this Constitutional change would be the beginning of a
dialogue between the First Peoples of Australia and the Government regarding
Sovereignty and Treaty.”

10. At its 2016 Gathering, NATSIAC resolved:

“NATSIAC recommends that the way forward is for the church to support the
Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as
outlined in our official motion of support. Any Constitutional change however must
be more than mere tokenism and have real and genuine effect in terms of
removing discriminatory language and providing a positive outcome for our
nation’s First Peoples. Fundamental is the need for genuine consultation with
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is NATSIAC’s position also that
the Church also supports the move toward Treaty, with recognition seen as a first
step on that journey.”

11. At its 2019 Gathering, NATSIAC resolved:

“That this NATSIAC re-affirms the Statement from the Heart and calls on the
Australian Government for constitutional recognition and a treaty between the
First Nations Peoples of Australia and the Federal Government. This agreement
will recognise the First Nation Peoples’ history and prior occupation of this land,
as well as the injustices many have endured and enshrine an Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament in the constitution. The contents of this
motion were forwarded to the Prime Minister of Australia and the Federal
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs by the NATSIAC Secretary.”


12. Our national identity is sadly diminished and deluded if Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islanders are not acknowledged and valued as having a unique place in Australia’s
history as the original owners, custodians and stewards of these lands and waters,
and as having an essential, special and lasting part to play in its present and future.

13. Our approach seeks to reflect the principles outlined in Joint Statement of
Commitment and Affirmation of Faith and Justice with Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islanders resolved by General Synod in 2007. This included the following

20210422 Submission on First Nations Voice Co-Design Interim Report 3
We, together through this shared commitment continue to seek to heal the
wounds, hurts and sufferings of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
of Australia.”

As peoples of Christ's we are bound into a relationship that seeks to be the
foundation of mutual trust, respect, and the sharing of power and resources to
create a just and righteous Church and nation of Australia. Through this
commitment our own homes, communities, parishes, dioceses and national
organisations are to be sanctuaries where we will strive to live out to the fullest
the tenets of this our shared faith.”

and we invite all who call Australia their home to join with us as we continue the
process of healing our peoples and this land and seas.”

Our approach to the issues of Constitutional reform in relation to Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Peoples seeks to give effect to this call to recognition, trust,
respect and healing.

14. Judging by the resolutions of the General Synod, which is made up of
representatives, both lay and clergy, from dioceses across Australia and the ease
with which the resolutions above were passed, there seems to be a broad consensus
in the Anglican Church in favour of the First Nations Voice or Voices to be included
in the Australian Constitution. There have been parish and other groups around the
country studying and worshipping with resources offered by the Anglican Board of
Mission and other church groups on the Uluru Statement or on constitutional
recognition. This indicates a growing level of grassroots knowledge and support for
the Uluru Statement, the First Nations Voice/Voices and the constitutional change
called for. We urge the government to invest in promoting the cause of a referendum
for constitutional change in order to continue to build support within the wider

15. It is also vital that this constitutional change should occur alongside negotiating and
entering into treaties with First Nations Peoples and of enabling and listening to the
process of truth-telling of the history of this land. We have a great opportunity to set
a new and more just course for the nation and we cannot afford to go once more
down the way of further destructive rejection.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Carolyn Tan
Chair of the Public Affairs Commission
22 April 2021

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