By the end of 2023, all Australians will be given the chance to vote on a referendum question to formally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this country and to enshrine in the Constitution the establishment of an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Costitution.
In the wake of this initiative, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference released a Social Justice Statement entitled “Listen, Learn, Love: A New Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.” The document objective is to encourage all Catholics and people of goodwill to listen to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters and brothers and to learn from them. Archbishop Costelloe, President of ACBC, and John Lochowiak Chair of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), introduce the Statement in an accompanying video.
Thanks to the cooperation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), the Statement addresses the many injustices their people have faced since colonisation until the present. But it also reports on the many efforts and the achievements of several First Nations communities to address these problems.
While the Bishops recognise the Church’s responsibility in the past perpetrated injustices, they stressed the ongoing Church’s efforts to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples from the early days of colonisation until today. To witness this, they write: “In the light of all we have heard and learned from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters and brothers, we say: ‘We love you and commit ourselves to walking alongside you on your struggle for justice’.”
This love is characterised by a commitment to encounter and dialogue, reciprocity, mutual accompaniment, and a desire to put the other at the centre of our attention: “Let’s come together in friendship and love to show all that love can not only change individual lives, but that it can change society for the better.”
The statement ends with some daily actions to take, in order to make this commitment concrete, such as to get in touch with diocesan Aboriginal Catholic Ministries, to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, to attend events and ceremonies organised by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, etc.