Unity in Understanding – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council statement

IN the spirit of Ephesians 2:14 – “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups
one” – we, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC),
invite our fellow Australians to a moment of reflection and unity this Australia Day.

Over the past years, our Australia Day statements have journeyed through challenging yet
hopeful terrains.

From advocating for a change in the date of Australia Day to highlighting
the resilience and strength of our Communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,
our path has been one of seeking understanding, respect, and compassion for all Australians.

True change requires more than just a date; it demands a shift in our hearts and a
commitment to open, compromising dialogue for the good of all.

While changing the date might not heal all wounds or bridge every disparity, it may play a role in moving towards the unity that Jesus modelled – one grounded in reconciliation, understanding, and a collective journey towards peace and harmony. Let’s continue the discussion – respectfully.

Following the Voice to Parliament referendum, our reflection takes on a new depth. The
angst and sadness generated by the Voice debate is still recent in our hearts, and the hearts
of many Australians from both sides.

If we have learnt anything from the referendum, it is that respectful dialogue must rise above fear.

We don’t want to fight; we just want to celebrate our Great Southern Land together on a day
that makes everyone feel proud. Australia Day, as it stands, remains a day of mixed

For many First Australians, it is not a day of celebration, but a reminder of the
deep wounds and ongoing struggles faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. It
is a day that brings to light the disparities that still exist in our society.

Yet, in this moment of shared history and experience, lies a powerful opportunity. An
opportunity to not only heal from the Voice debate, but embrace the bigger picture – one
where every Australian steps into the shoes of another and sees through their eyes.

It is a call to journey together towards a future that honours and includes the rich tapestry of cultures, histories, and stories that make up Australia, and each will, and should, celebrate in their own way.

Our faith teaches us the power of rebirth and renewal.

In this spirit, we propose that Australia Day becomes a time of coming together in unity and understanding.

It’s a day to acknowledge the sadness and trepidation felt by many, but also to celebrate the strength, resilience, and contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to our shared Australian story.

We should also celebrate the contributions of our newest Australians, our migrants, and refugees whose cultures and contributions are valued and enriching to our Great Southern Land. We are all in this together.

We urge our Communities, Parishes, and fellow Australians to engage in actions that build

Let’s deepen our understanding of each other, support initiatives that promote truth-telling and reconciliation, and ensure that the voices of First Nations Peoples are heard and valued in the ongoing narrative of our Nation.

As we reflect on our past statements and look to the future, our message remains consistent yet evolves with our journey.

It’s a message of hope, unity, and action. Let us come together, not just in word but indeed, to create a Nation where every day is a celebration of our shared humanity, respect for our differences, and commitment to a just and inclusive Australia.

In the words of St. John Paul II, “If you stay closely united, you are like a tree standing in the
middle of a bushfire…”

As we stand united, we become a symbol of strength and renewal, capable of withstanding the fires of challenges and emerging stronger and more connected.

This Australia Day, let us take a step towards each other, with open hearts and minds, ready
to listen, learn, and grow together. For in unity and understanding, lies the path to a truly
inclusive and harmonious Australia.