The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), the Uniting Church in Australia and UnitingCare Australia welcome the opportunity to contribute to the Joint Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice Referendum. Our collaboration reflects the Church’s Covenant with the UAICC which articulates its desire to work in solidarity towards national policy changes and build relationships that respect the rights of First Nations People to self-determination. 
We support the wording in the proposed Constitutional Alteration (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice) Bill 2023 and recognise it as a first step towards the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart (Uluru Statement) which called for three components: Voice, Treaty, Truth. We commend the Federal Government for committing to the full implementation of the Uluru Statement.
The Uniting Church Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) resolved at its recent meeting to declare the support of the Uniting Church in Australia for the proposed change in the Australian Constitution to recognise an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. The ASC noted this decision was informed by the Uniting Church’s commitment to the Covenant between the Uniting Church and the UAICC.
The UAICC, the Uniting Church and UnitingCare Australia support the full implementation of the Uluru Statement because:
- First Nations People and their culture need to be understood and celebrated by all people in Australia,
- First Nations People have given us the Uluru Statement as the basis for reconciliation,
- It calls for the acknowledgement of the sovereignty of First Nations People in Australia,
- It highlights the need for self-determination which gives First Nations People an opportunity to shape decisions impacting their lives, communities, Country and cultural sites,
- It seeks a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice, as well as systemic changes, that will significantly affect positive life outcomes for First Nations People, and
- It seeks recognition of Australia’s true history and the ongoing impacts of trauma on First Nations families and communities.
As the largest network of community service providers in the country, the UnitingCare network sees the overrepresentation of First Nations People accessing support services and recognises the poor outcomes being achieved against the Closing the Gap measures. Providing First Nations People with a Voice in the solutions that work on the ground will be key to improving the lives of First Nations People in Australia.
We urge the Committee to recommend the Bill be passed in its entirety.