An inspiring, multi-faith gathering took place at the Great Synagogue in Sydney, in conjunction with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), for the launch of Statements from the Soul: The Moral Case for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The book, edited by Shireen Morris and Damien Freeman, is made up of a collection of passionate essays from a mix of religious and community leaders arguing for a First Nations Voice to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution. It was officially launched by former Chief Justice of NSW Tom Bathurst.
The release of the book comes ahead of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum, which Morris told the large audience boils down to a single moral question.
“Do we choose, as a country, to recognise Indigenous peoples in the constitution through a substantive constitutional promise, a constitutional commitment that their voices will always be heard in laws and policies made about them?” Morris asked.
“Surely it is time, in 2023, that they are recognised and included in the Constitution from which they were wrongfully omitted in 1901.
“If only politicians took a leaf out of this book, which shows how Catholic, Anglican, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim Australians are transcending their differences to get behind a ‘yes’ vote in this referendum,” Morris said.
Rabbi Ben Elton said the Jewish community at its best “has had a longstanding commitment to reconciliation with First Nations”.
“I think there has been an affinity between the Jewish community and the First Nations communities,” Rabbi Elton said.
“We remember with great gratitude (Aboriginal Elder) William Cooper protesting against Kristallnacht at the German consulate, an act of bravery and principle we will not forget and we have tried in our best moments to repay that bravery and that compassion in return.”
Morris, who is the director of the Radical Centre for Reform Lab, told The AJN how meaningful it was to launch the book at such an inspiring venue.
“I think there’s a real deep affinity amongst the Jewish community for reconciliation,” she said.
“I suspect it’s because of the shared understanding of a history of discrimination and exclusion and injustice, which enlivens this passion for helping achieve justice in this country. I also think that feeling is present in a lot of migrant communities, because many of us have come from countries where we too have experienced discrimination.
“We do understand the history that Indigenous people have been through in this country and I think many migrants and their descendants do want to give back and see them treated in a better way.”