Lection Connection

February 12, 2023: From the Heart

From Paul Turley


In May 2022, Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Australian Labor Party, claimed victory in the national elections held that day. His first words to the Australian people as prime minister-elect were, “I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging. And on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.”


The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a statement to the Australian people calling for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, and a process for agreement making and truth-telling. 


The Statement was developed at the Uluru National Constitutional Convention in 2017 and seeks full, rather than symbolic, recognition of Australia’s First Peoples in the Australian Constitution. 


This recognition requires a change to the wording of the Constitution and that requires a national referendum at which a majority of the Australian people and a majority of the seven states and territories of the nation must vote in favour of the change. 


The referendum is likely to be held in the latter part of 2023. While the government is yet to release the wording of the referendum question, both the “no” and the “yes” campaigns are getting ready to launch. 


The two major political parties in Australia, the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party of Australia, both agree that First Nations Australians need to be recognized in the Constitution, the debate is how that recognition should be framed. Many of the conservative side consider the “Voice” as the wrong way to go. 


While a large number of First Nations Australians and First Nations organizations were a part of formulating the Statement from the Heart, there are indigenous voices who are calling first for truth telling, then for a treaty, and only then for the Voice. The Australian Greens political party says, “All Australians must understand the past of Australia’s history and its ongoing impact on First Nations people before we can all move forward as a healed country. The establishment of a Truth and Justice Commission is one of this country’s first priorities. The Commission should recognise the essential protocol of the relationship, Sovereign to Sovereign, between the Australian state and all groups of First Nations people.”


The commitment of the government remains that the referendum question should be about whether Australians agree that First Nations Australians should have a constitutionally enshrined voice that requires them to be consulted on issues that affect them. The details of how that voice should be constituted will, the government says, be left to the parliament. 


In the words of our text for this week, we could frame this important issue for Australia like this: You have heard it said that First Nations Australians are the most disadvantaged cohort in the nation. You have heard it said that many First Nations Australians are calling for recognition and engagement and have been doing so for a very long time. And I say to you, all Australians now have an opportunity think and act differently.


Explore… Matthew 5:21–37

  • How do you read Jesus saying, but I say to you? Is he critiquing the commandment? Is he expanding it? Is he doing both?
  • Why do you think Jesus chooses these three – murder, divorce and oath-taking to teach from?
  • What norm of our culture could you imagine Jesus speaking to with the words, you have heard it said? 


God of all knowing and all goodness, give us the courage and the grace to look clear-eyed at the norms of our culture and to imagine new and expanded ways of living. Help us to live in the truth that the kingdom of heaven has come near. Amen.


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