A multi-faith alliance that includes the Australian Sangha Association (ASA) has coordinated a “National Weekend of Prayer, Reflection and Meditation” across Australia to urge supporters to vote “yes” in the nation’s upcoming Referendum on Indigenous Recognition and a Voice to Parliament, which is officially underway with a compulsory ballot to be held on 14 October.
The referendum will decide whether the national government should amend the country’s Constitution to recognize the First Peoples of Australia by establishing a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
For supporters, the wording is important. While a proposed law to alter the constitution might sound like a radical move, the change is seen as the only way to recognize the First Peoples: in other words, the current constitution does not do the minimum of recognizing the status of the original inhabitants of Australia. For a “yes” vote to succeed, the referendum will need a majority of votes nationally as well as a majority in at least four of Australia’s six states.
The weekend’s multi-faith reflections commenced at 11 a.m. on 8 September and concluded on 10 September, at 7 p.m. Representatives from Australia’s Buddhist community, represented by monks from ASA, embarked on a 56-hour meditation to support the multi-faith coalition’s position. Ven. Drolkar of ASA gave a speech in Adelaide, while Ven. Mettaji, secretary of the ASA, who had spoken in Perth, released a statement:
It is so important that all Australians are equally heard and supported, especially on matters and policies that affect anyone’s life. The First Nations people have asked for this right and it should be granted with care, respect and good faith. This moment is above politics: the Australian Sangha Association believe it is a moral imperative to ensure a constitutionally guaranteed Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.(ASA)
Other members of the multifaith coalition also released statements. Jillian Segal, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, noted:
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry was one of the first groups to support the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart in which Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples called for constitutional recognition of their status as Australia’s First Nations and for a constitutionally guaranteed First Nations Voice. There is a clear moral imperative for constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Nations. Many multicultural and faith communities which usually align with different sides of the political spectrum have united to support a clear majority, even though not all, of Australia’s First Nations people, in backing the referendum.(ASA)
Reverend John Gilmore, president of National Council of Churches in Australia, said:
Together and individually we want to create some moments where we can be present to God and in those moments seek and discern as communities and people where God is guiding us in considering the invitation contained in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. As people of faith – this is what we must do. As people of faith, we believe that supporting a ‘Yes’ vote will serve as a meaningful and faithful expression of these important shared values reflected in our various faith traditions. Supporting a ‘Yes’ vote will help all Australians be part of the one human community, will further reconciliation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and will affirm the dignity of all people in this land.(ASA)
Adel Salman, president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, stated:
Muslims have a long and rich history with the indigenous peoples of this land we call Australia, pre-dating European settlement by hundreds of years. Trade, cultural exchange, and intermarriage were the hallmarks of this history, and what underpinned it all was respect, trust, and shared values. Given all of this, it is natural that Muslims would feel a particular affinity for the First Nations peoples and identify with their struggles against dispossession, injustice, and disadvantage. The Islamic Council of Victoria supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart which provides a pathway to truth, reconciliation, and self-determination. And a necessary step is recognising the Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Australian Constitution.(ASA)
The ASA, which describes itself as a representative body for monks and nuns of all Buddhist traditions in Australia, has been active in outlining clearly and decisively the moral, political, and even spiritual importance of voting “yes”. Currently, “yes” trails “no” by a significant margin, with national support for amending the constitution at 43 per cent in August. Support for this referendum is a signature policy of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Supporters worry that voter apathy, an uncharismatic campaign about the merits of “yes,” and confusion over the actual impact of the Voice and its potential in helping the many problems of Indigenous communities have sapped away momentum.
“There’s a long way to go, but my focus is on persuading people about the critical opportunities we have to make a real difference to lives of First Nations peoples, but more profoundly even than that, to make a difference to the sort of country we can be,” Albanese told reporters in Canberra. (Sydney Morning Herald)
Australian Sangha Association
Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum (ABC News)
The latest poll for the Voice to Parliament shows Yes trailing No by greatest margin yet (ABC News)
Polls suggest Australia Indigenous Voice referendum will fail (Al Jazeera)
Dutton challenges Albanese to cancel referendum as opening for postal votes nears (Sydney Morning Herald)
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