Wominjeka – Welcome

St Paul’s Cathedral stands on the sovereign Country of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation; land that was taken, not ceded. We give thanks for their ancestors, and acknowledge the ongoing right and responsibility of their elders to care for this Country. We are committed to work and pray towards a more just settlement for all Indigenous people and pay our respects to First Nations people.

During the colonisation of Australia, conflicts erupted between colonial forces (including the police and local settlers) and the Indigenous peoples of this land. Now known as the ‘Frontier Wars’, more than 20,000 Indigenous people were killed; losses amongst European settlers were about 2500.

Historians note that whilst open conflict often resulted in violence and murder, demoralisation and European diseases have been responsible for taking many more Indigenous lives since colonisation.

Today, we mourn our part in this history and affirm our commitment to the work of reconciliation.

The painting featured above is Treaty by Glenn Loughrey, a Wiradjuri man from New South Wales and priest at St Oswald’s Anglican Church, Glen Iris, Melbourne. He is an artist who fuses Indigenous art styles with Western forms of story telling. He writes of Treaty:

“We are in the process of a discussion about how to recognise indigenous Australians in the constitution. This piece suggests that only when deep dialogue occurs between equals resulting in true sovereignty and a treaty that recognises such will we have recognition. The piece uses red to signify the bloody history of our country, the black lines as the fences and policies we have used to further that history, the black and white squares as the way we view our selves in opposition. The tentative yellow lines and the meeting place reminds us that we have only just begun and that this process is fragile and can collapse at anytime.”    

Revd Canon Glenn Loughrey

The Voice to Parliament

At their February 2023 meeting, members of the Cathedral Chapter voted unanimously to endorse the Statement from the Heart and the Yes Campaign for the upcoming Voice to Parliament Referendum. 

Below are some resources to help promote and better understand the Voice to Parliament Referendum.

Wondering why we put up our ‘Yes’ banner? Read our frequently asked questions here.

Download | The Voice Calls from the Heart: We Say Yes

A new large-scale banner on the South-West spire of St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne calls on Australians to say ‘yes’ to the Voice to Parliament in partnership with the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Download a small-scale version suitable for 841x2000mm pull-up banner printing at Officeworks below.

Publication | Unpacking the Statement from the Heart

A personal reflection, written by The Revd Canon Assoc. Prof. Glenn Loughrey, for the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University.

Panel Discussion | The Voice to Parliament

The Cathedral hosted a panel discussion on Voice to Parliament and its significance ahead of the upcoming national referendum, with a panel of high-level experts in the field of Indigenous rights and cultural understanding.

Podcast | The Voice – The Need for Good Information

Canon Glenn Loughrey speaks to Victorian Aboriginal News about the role of Religious Organisations in the upcoming referendum and the need for reliable and open information.

Video | Truth, Justice & Water

Canon Glenn Loughrey uses a practical example of consultations on the Murray-Darling river system to imagine what would be possible with a Voice to Parliament.

Publication | A guide to talking about the Voice to Parliament

Feeling uncomfortable or uninformed about the Constitutional Referendum on Recognition and Voice? Here is an excellent resource that will help you better understand and be better able to discuss this with others.

Article | “A Voice to Parliament is just a first step towards healing”

Read Canon Glenn Loughrey’s article written for The Melbourne Anglican, and also published in our February Edition of Notes & News.

Video | A Call to the Churches to support a ‘Yes’ Vote

Prof. Anne Pattel-Grey calls on Churches to support a Yes vote in the referendum on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

Lectern | The design of ‘the Voice’

Canon Dr Garry Deverell speaks on the Uluru Statement and the design of the Voice to Parliament.

‘Yes’ Banner FAQ

Why does the Cathedral support the Voice?

When the Statement from the Heart was agreed to by First Nations elders across Australia at Uluru in 2017, our Synod (the Church’s elected parish representatives and clergy and our bishops) affirmed our support for the Statement and the process for reconciliation outlined in it: Voice, Treaty, Truth telling and Makarrata (Coming together). Our members studied the Statement in 2022 with two of our Aboriginal Senior clergy. Anyone who has not yet read The Statement from the Heart is encouraged to do so here. It’s the core reason why we support the Voice.

As a result of our shared study of the Statement from the Heart, our governing body (the Cathedral Chapter) and our AGM of members decided to take up the invitation in the Statement from the Heart to walk with First Peoples on the journey of reconciliation. Our members overwhelmingly decided to support the Voice to Parliament as the next step on that journey. We then asked our Aboriginal Senior Clergy to help us create a banner to give voice to our support. Canon Helen Dwyer came up with the words, and Canon Uncle Glenn Loughrey created the beautiful artwork.

Why is the Cathedral involving itself in politics?

St Paul’s Cathedral does not support a particular political party’s stance on the Statement and the Voice, but the Statement from the Heart and the journey to reconciliation it outlines. We are disappointed that the Statement from the Heart has been politicised. While the current debate has become antagonistic and divisive, for us at St Paul’s Cathedral, the journey to supporting the Voice has been a unifying experience, and we wish that that would be true for our nation, too. And it can be, when people engage respectfully and generously.

Reconciliation lies at the heart of the Christian message. As followers of Jesus, we each must answer his call to be reconciled. That’s true for individuals and for nations. We believe that, for Australia, Constitutional Recognition of First People and the establishment of a Voice to Parliament, is the right first step in responding to that call.

As Christians we can make a positive difference to the national debate. All of us can be involved by informing ourselves better, and encouraging and engaging in thoughtful conversations on the Voice with our families, workmates and friends. By being positive and thoughtful, firm in our own views but considerate of differences, we can help shift the tenor of the conversation from antagonism to respect.

Why does the Cathedral need to hold a position on the Voice?

When there are issues of injustice to be set right, and disadvantage in our own communities to be addressed we, as Christians, need to say what our faith teaches. St Matthew records in his gospel that Jesus said: “What you do these, the least of my sisters and brothers you have done to me” (Matthew 24:40). We take that injunction seriously.

Earlier in Matthew’s gospel, in the Beatitudes, Jesus had predicted that his followers will be insulted, accused falsely, and reviled because of their standing up for justice in the community and society of which they are a part (Matthew 5:10-11). Our Aboriginal clergy tell us that they are experiencing significant racist abuse during the present debate. Nevertheless, they have chosen to abide by command to be workers for reconciliation in our world (2 Corinthians 5.18).

Finally, the Anglican Church has had a ‘voice’ to its peak decision-making body for more than 31 years. It’s called the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council (NATSIAC). It speaks on issues that matter to Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders much in the same way the Voice to Parliament is designed to: with first-hand experience being shared, and the ears of those in positions of decision making able to listen. NATSIAC has been a step in the right direction for the church, and we are convinced that the Voice will be the same for our nation as a whole.

Is the Cathedral telling people how to vote?

Each Australian should make up their own mind as to how to respond to the Referendum question on constitutional recognition and the Voice to Parliament. We hope that an overwhelming majority of people would like to show support for constitutional recognition for Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders.

St Paul’s Cathedral decided to put up a banner to tell the people of Melbourne that we support the Statement from the Heart and the process of reconciliation through Voice, Treaty, Truth Telling and Makarrata that it contains. We didn’t tell our members what to think, but instead spent much of spring 2022 studying in depth at the Statement. We met weekly to study and discuss the document, and to learn from our three Aboriginal clergy (all of whom support the Voice).

The banner therefore stands as a statement of support expressed by our members, not an instruction on how to vote.

How does the wider Anglican Church feel about the Voice?

Our church is governed by a Synod, a legislative assembly that is made up of elected lay representatives and clergy from each parish in our Diocese. The Melbourne Synod, in turn, elects members to our national legislative body, the General Synod.

Both our local Synod and the General Synod studied the Statement from the Heart from the time it was first signed and published in May 2017. After debate and careful study they resolved to express their support to the reconciliation process outlined in it. Again, that process was shaped by local representatives, and informed by Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders on our own ‘Voice to General Synod’, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Anglican Council.

In July 2023, our peak body, the General Synod encouraged Anglicans to consider supporting the Voice to Parliament.

The Statement from the Heart

We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.

This sovereignty is spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.