Archbishop Coleridge advocates for constitutional recognition of the Voice

The Voice

Australia stands on the brink of a transformative moment as the nation prepares for a referendum on the Voice to Parliament, according to the Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge.

In a recently released letter, Archbishop Coleridge (pictured) encouraged all Australians to educate themselves on this crucial matter, advocating for a shift in focus from potential losses to the nation’s potential gains.

Coleridge highlighted the profound significance of this impending decision, framing it as a critical juncture in Australia’s history.

The Archbishop acknowledged Australia’s accomplishments since European settlement and stressed that the referendum’s importance transcends mere historical reflection. Increasingly, Australians are recognising the deep-seated damage inflicted upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities due to European colonisation.

Drawing attention to historical context, the Archbishop invoked the words of Australia’s first Catholic bishop, John Bede Polding, who decried the devaluation of Indigenous lives in the mid-19th century. Polding wrote, “The life of an (Aboriginal) human being is valued no more than the life of a kangaroo, and far less…than that of a bullock.”

Archbishop Coleridge noted that Polding’s writings are a stark reminder of the injustices that prevailed during that era, and his assertion that the First Nations peoples had a legitimate claim to the land remains poignant.

The status quo is untenable

Emphasising the importance of listening to Indigenous voices, the Archbishop cited Pope Francis’s approach to engaging with the Indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

“They are our principal dialogue partners, those from whom we have the most to learn. Their words, their hopes and their fears should be the most authoritative voice at the table. Otherwise the result would be, once again, ‘a plan drawn up by the few for the few’.”

The status quo, Coleridge declared, is untenable. The disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians continues to widen, demanding immediate attention. He implored every citizen to vote with a Gospel perspective, emphasising that commitment to addressing Indigenous disadvantage and fostering reconciliation must remain unwavering, regardless of the referendum’s outcome.

The Referendum on the Voice is being held on October 14 2023. If successful, it will be the first constitutional change in Australia since 1977 and the first one to directly affect Indigenous peoples since 1967.

Correction: When first published, this article claimed the Voice Referendum was happening in 2024. The error has been corrected.


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