In 2023, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) Social Justice Statement is “Listen, Learn, Love: A New Engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples”.
The new Social Justice Statement arrives in a critical year for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and, indeed for the entire nation. During this time Australians will be casting their vote on a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by incorporating a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution.
Whilst the origins of the statement are unrelated to the referendum, it acknowledges the great challenges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face and proposes ways in which the unacceptable gaps in measures like health, education and employment can be addressed.
Significantly, a large part of this year’s statement was written by members of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), who speak directly about the injustices their people have faced and the pain it has caused.
At the heart of this year’s statement is a call for all the People of God to embrace a new engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, an engagement that involves a commitment to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to learn from them. This listening and learning and the actions which flow from them must be grounded in a spirit of love if there is to be a change for the better.
As with elections, the Bishops won’t be encouraging Catholics and others to vote Yes or to vote No, but to be informed – by their own conscience, but also by the richness of Catholic social teaching. This includes supporting the dignity of every human person and seeking the common good, so every person may have the opportunity to flourish.
Together, the Bishops and NATSICC invite all Australians to reflect on the concluding message of the statement:
“We, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council, invite members of the Church to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this year of great possibility.
We hope for an end to the pain, the hurt and the injustice that has burdened the First Peoples of this land for far too long.
Let us commit ourselves to fostering a civilisation of love in Australia. Let’s come together in friendship and love to show all that love can not only change individual lives, but that it can change society for the better.”
To access a copy of the Social Justice Statement, visit the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference website.
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