Church to support Congress as it helps shape referendum question

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Uniting Church Assembly has called Church Councils, Boards and Agencies to uphold the views of the Uniting Aboriginal Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) as it makes decisions about the appropriateness of the changes proposed by the Federal Government which will go to a referendum regarding constitutional change.

This was in the spirit of the covenant relationship the church has with its Indigenous people said Rev. Tim Matton-Johnson, Deputy Chair of the UAICC, and would progress the Covenant in positive ways.

“When it comes to important decisions like this for First People, we need to trust the people for whom this is a heart issue – and that is your Congress people.

“I don’t know what referendum question will come out of this. It’s possible it will be politicked around so much it becomes something no-one really wants so we have to say ‘no’. It’s also possible that a window might open up that is helpful to our First Peoples. And I think we can trust Congress to know the answer when it happens.”

Holly Wright (Riverina Presbytery, NSW/ACT) said Rev. Shayne Blackman, UAICC Administrator, had assured an earlier Assembly session that it did not see this as the church giving the UAICC a “blank cheque”. He assured Assembly members that the UAICC was a council of the church and would make no decision regarding the referendum question wording without consulting the Assembly Standing Committee.

Elenie Poulos, UnitingJustice Australia National Director, had also previously told the Assembly meeting that there was a need to raise awareness of the referendum and work to ensure the final wording was acceptable to Australia’s First Peoples.

UnitingJustice Australia was hoping the referendum would result in changes to Australia’s Constitution so it acknowledged Indigenous peoples as Australia’s First Peoples.

In presenting the proposal to the Assembly meeting on July 21, Mr Matton-Johnson said he believed trusting the Congress on this matter would deepen relationships.

“The community I come out of where we have generations of broken trust and an endemic culture of mistrust ... part of what I see about our covenant relationship together is the voice of Christ leading us in the opposite direction.

“We’re building trust in a context where we didn’t used to have it. So each little step is an important step,” he said.

The proposal was passed by agreement.