Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed a gathering of faith leaders asking them to vote Yes for the upcoming Voice referendum. Here is his full statement.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER:
5th October 2023
Thank you so much everyone. Thank you firstly, Pastor, for welcoming us into your church. Thank you to Rachel Perkins for the leadership that you have shown. And thank you to the faith leaders who are represented around here for the leadership that you’re showing to your respective communities to respond positively to the gracious invitation that the Uluru Statement from the Heart represents. To, as it concludes, to walk together to a better future.
I am greatly encouraged by the very broad spectrum of faith groups that have supported the Voice. I’m not aware of any who have any disagreement with advocating a Yes vote, and that says a lot about the nature of the request, but also the nature of what brings together this group with its common purpose of caring for the disadvantaged, and for bringing our great multicultural nation together as one.
We have here today leaders from the Islamic community, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jewish, Hindus, Sikhs, across the board, this is a very, very broad group representing the very large religions that are present in Australia, but also representing some of the smaller communities as well. They know how difficult it is to struggle for, to overcome disadvantage. People who have come to Australia to make a better life for themselves and for their children. And that is what the Uluru Statement from the Heart represents as well.
Indigenous Australians just want a better future for their children and for their grandchildren. And one of the things that inspires me is the people such as Rachel, Tom Calma, Aunty Pat Anderson who I will speak at an event with in Brisbane later tonight. People who’ve spent their lives struggling to be heard, looking for a way forward of how we take Australia forward. And the referendum is, of course, just about two thing – it’s about recognition of the fact of our history.
Our history in this land didn’t begin in 1770, or even 1788 when Philip arrived here on this shore, it goes back some 65,000 years. And that we share this continent with the oldest continuous culture on earth should be a source of great pride, and I know is for most Australians. When I go into my local church, it begins with, services begin with an acknowledgement of country, and that is something that is common across the faith groups as well. That’s something that didn’t happen when I was a young boy growing up literally around the corner from this church on Pyrmont Bridge Road. It’s something that occurs with faith groups, was something that occurred at the beginning of the AFL and the NRL Grand Final, and people standing up in silence, just showing respect and that is what this is about. It’s about something else as well, it’s about respect for ourselves and who we are.
A nation becomes greater when it’s optimistic, when it appeals to hope, when it looks forward. And the opportunity that we have to be enlarged as a nation as we were when we gave the Apology. All of the faiths in, the great privilege of being Prime Minister is having contact with people here over a long period of time. And I know that one of the things that all of the faiths have in common is that when someone is wronged, you say sorry. That act of contrition, the idea that human beings are not perfect and that we need to learn from each other is something that is really important. It is something that Rabbi David Saperstein said had a home in the Uluru Statement as much as a Jewish thinking but also in Christian theology, and Muslim poetry. There is so much in common across here, and that’s what unites us today. People drawn from diverse traditions, beliefs and cultures.
It is our shared belief in the dignity of the person, and a desire to move towards national healing, unity, and reconciliation. So, it is fitting that today we find such positive responses to the invitation from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who’ve given us this invitation represented from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, important that we’re responding in words and in deeds, as well. This isn’t the first time of course, that faith groups have come together to advance reconciliation. But I have great belief that if you look at people who’ve examined the words that are being put to the Australian people on October 14, whether it is faith groups, sporting organisations, business groups, union groups, community, non-government organisations, charities, they are all coming together to advocate a Yes vote.
And I think that, if I can sum up their response to this, the response to that Uluru Statement from the Heart is a response to a graceful statement with grace, and that is what we are seeing here. An uplifting sense of hope for the future. Noel Pearson speaks about a Yes vote as being an act of faith and love, and at the end of the day I am heartened by the campaign and the engagement that I’ve had with people who do have love for our common humanity. And over the next 10 days I’ll be doing whatever I can to make sure that that is reflected. And if you have that love, and if you have a Voice given to Indigenous Australians, this is such a gracious request. It is for a non-binding advisory committee to be able to make representations on matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And all of you know that like any organisations and groupings of people, if you are having a decision made that will impact them, you are better off listening to them about what that impact will be, because you get better outcomes when you listen to people. And we will get better outcomes because we know from our history that the issues that are working for Indigenous Australians to close the gap are issues where we are listening, where that voice is present. Community health programs, justice reinvestment programs, Indigenous Rangers programs.
When COVID hit this country, I was in briefings with catastrophic potential consequences for Indigenous communities. It was only when the bureaucrats went and listened to people on the ground in those Indigenous communities in places like western New South Wales that we turned around those outcomes, so that was very important. So I think that one of the things that I have found as well, I must say, I will be at Uluru next week. The first time I went there I was struck by the fact that here is this extraordinary natural phenomenon that is right in the centre, right at the heart of Australia, and it’s a spiritual place. It’s a spiritual place, you can just feel it and understand why it is that the first Australian chose there to have their gathering about a way forward for constitutional recognition.
So I sincerely hope that Australians do vote Yes to accept this invitation.
And I look forward to the dialogue today. And I really thank you for honouring me with the invitation to be here with you today and to continue to work with you, the faith communities and the important work that you do not just on this issue, but on so many issues as we go forward.