Voting on 21 May (1): Putting First Peoples First

Australian citizens go to the polls to elect a federal government on 21 May. The media, in true form, has dumbed things down, making us think that it’s about voting directly for a Prime Minister, and that it’s all about the mistakes the candidates make and the economic impact of their policies.

Our system, of course, is not simply a two- person contest; the 17 million people eligible to vote will be electing both a local member to sit in the House of Representatives for the next three years; and a number of senators, to sit in the Senate for the next six years.

And it’s not just about personalities; it’s actually about policies. We need to think about each party is promising to do, in relation to a wide array of policy areas—not just economics, but a whole array of matters.

To assist voters in considering how they might vote, the Uniting Church has prepared a resource that identifies a number of issues, in seven key areas, that should inform the way that we vote, if we take seriously how the Gospel. calls us to live.

The seven areas are drawn from a fine 40-page document that was prepared and published last year, Our Vision for a Just Australia, expressing the Uniting Church vision for a just Australia and why our Christian faith calls us to work towards its fulfilment. It can be read in full at https://uniting.church/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Our-Vision-For-a-Just-Australia_July2021.pdf

The Assembly has prepared a shorter 8-page document as a Federal Election Resource, in which key matters in each of the seven areas are identified. That document is found at https://uniting.church/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Federal-Election-Resources-2022_11-April.pdf

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The first area featured in this resource reflects the vision of the Uniting Church for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. It acknowledges that these people were nurtured and sustained by God before invasion, and so are to be celebrated at the very heart of what it means to be Australian.

The Uniting Church affirms First Peoples’ sovereignty, and believes that First Peoples have a voice in the decision making of our country and in how they live out their right to self-determination. “As First and Second Peoples”, the resource states, “we walk together, creating socially just and culturally safe relationships, listening and learning from one another”.

The Statement from the Heart developed at Uluru has been given to us by First Peoples as the basis for how we can work together to build a better future, but governments have not followed their lead. First Peoples communities, whether remote, regional or urban, experience heightened levels of disadvantage, including a lower life expectancy and worse health, education and employment outcomes than other people in Australia.

The key issues to inform our voting in this regard are what each candidate or their party says about:

• Constitutional change to enshrine a First Nations Voice to Federal Parliament.

• Recognising the sovereignty of First Nations People and establish a commission for treaty making, truth telling, justice and reconciliation.

• Sufficient funding to achieve the Closing the Gap targets, prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations to deliver services wherever possible.

Subsequent posts are at:

Author: John T Squires

My name is John Squires. I live in the Australian Capital Territory. I have been an active participant in the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) since it was formed in 1977, and was ordained as a Minister of the Word in this church in 1980. I have served in rural, regional, and urban congregations and as a Presbytery Resource Minister and Intentional Interim Minister. For two decades I taught Biblical Studies at a theological college and most recently I was Director of Education and Formation and Principal of the Perth Theological Hall. I've studied the scriptures in depth; I hold a number of degrees, including a PhD in early Christian literature. I am committed to providing the best opportunities for education within the church, so that people can hold to an informed faith, which is how the UCA Basis of Union describes it. This blog is one contribution to that ongoing task.

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