Tuesday, 6 June 2023
On a recent visit to Rome marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Holy See, Fr Frank Brennan gave a lecture on the recognition of Aboriginal rights with particular emphasis on the recent debate in Australia on the Voice to Parliament.

"On the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, a gathering of First Peoples at Uluru published the Uluru Statement from the Heart in which they called for ‘the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution’27. Last week, our Parliament began debating the bill for the proposed referendum on the Voice. Reminiscent of the 1988 debate on parliamentary recognition of the First Peoples, the conservative side of the parliament has opposed any provision other than what would be enjoyed ‘in common with all other Australians’. Both the Liberal and National Parties are opposing the referendum proposal. One Liberal member who has sweated blood on the issue is Julian Leeser who resigned from the Opposition front bench so that he could campaign for a Yes vote even though he has serious, reasoned reservations about the proposed wording of the change to the Constitution.
He told Parliament:28 ‘Over thousands of years, Australia’s Indigenous people have made their peace with this land, and it’s become part of their soul. Lives infused by the land, the seasons and the stories of their ancestors.

The 2021 Senior Australian of the Year, Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, calls the contemplation of this land “deep listening”, “dadirri”—the ability to stop, contemplate and listen. To listen to the deep waters of our country, to the present as well as times past; to listen and to hear the beckoning of change. This is such a moment for our country and for the home we share, Indigenous and immigrant, drawn from every creed and from every corner of the world.’

I have had the good fortune to be here in Rome with Miriam-Rose this week as part of the Australian Embassy’s celebration of 50 years diplomatic relations between Australia and the Holy See. Her message of ‘deep listening’, ‘dadirri’, has been heard by people of diverse languages and cultures. On Monday, she told the Australian media gathered here in Rome:   ‘There’s not enough information going to everyone. I’m in a remote community, and there are others that are in that situation. There should be more people coming in and explaining what it is, and how it’s going to affect us… in a good way or a bad way. I don’t mind the Voice, that’s not the issue. It’s just, there’s not enough engagement with us.’

Fr Frank Brennan

Link to his speech here.