Our Jewish community is proud to be part of one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world.
Here in Australia, we are free to lead religiously and culturally rich lives safely and without fear. Yet a price has been paid, and continues to be paid, for us to be on this land. Its original inhabitants, who had no say in its settling by the British in 1788, have suffered greatly and continue to do so.
Firstly, there is the historical suffering that Indigenous Australians have endured, the scars of which are still raw in their communities.
Secondly, today across almost every metric, First Nations peoples are at a socioeconomic disadvantage. Life expectancy is well below what it is for other Australians, incarceration figures are higher and literacy is lower. Addiction rates are higher, as is the incidence of violence and suicide. It is long past time these and other issues are resolved.
Later this year Australians will vote on enshrining an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Constitution so that Aboriginal people can have a say in matters that affect them. We encourage all in our community, no matter which way they lean on the proposal, to get involved in the debate and inform themselves of the issues.
Crucially, and in the spirit of Reconciliation Week, listen to Indigenous Australians. Hear their stories. Real understanding comes only from imagining what life is like in their shoes.
Our two communities have a proud history of helping one another. Yorta Yorta man William Cooper stood up for Jews after Kristallnacht even as his own people were suffering here. Jewish luminaries such as Ron Castan, who served as senior counsel on the Mabo case, and Mark Leibler, who co-chaired the Referendum Council, have made a real difference in advancing Indigenous causes.
A number of our communal organisations are also admirably taking up the cause. Groups such as Stand Up and Shalom Gamarada set a shining example of how to engage positively and effect positive change.
As Jewish Australians, we have a responsibility to our fellow citizens and especially the First Australians. We can debate the politics of how to exercise that responsibility, but the need to do so is clear.