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Paul Burton: The Voice is an opportunity for transformation

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NSW President Paul Burton explains why the Society of St Vincent de Paul supports a Yes vote on 14 October. Photo: Supplied
NSW President Paul Burton explains why the Society of St Vincent de Paul supports a Yes vote on 14 October. Photo: Supplied

A transformative change of heart and mind is a fundamental aspect of the Christian worldview.

The acceptance of an invitation towards transformation generated by spiritual reassessment is known as metanoia.

Such transformation is highly relevant in the current moment as our society considers whether to accept or reject the invitation to affirm a First Nations Voice to Parliament.

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It is important to objectively understand the defining differences presented by the respective campaigns. I believe it is the personal responsibility of everyone to be comprehensively informed ahead of making such a choice on 14 October.

This is what is required of us as a society, as individuals, and underwrites our personal accountability as members of the Christian belief system.

The invitation we are presented with must be one that brings about notable transformation and inclusion, not only individually, but across our Australian society.

In this way, it is similar to St Paul’s message in Galatians 3:28:

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

The invitation of the First Nations Voice to Parliament is a transformative moment for us all and prompts us to firmly reflect on all important factors that have made our country a global destination.

The St Vincent de Paul Society, as a lay-Catholic organisation, aspires to bring about a more just and compassionate society.

We see the First Nations Voice to Parliament as a matter of social justice, informed by Catholic social teachings, and made real by the circumstances faced by the people we assist.

Our members work in communities across the state providing support with food, clothing, household bills and other expenses to people in need.

In the last year alone, a quarter of the people who sought this assistance identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Every day, as our members meet people in their time of need, one of the most impactful things spoken of is not the material assistance received, but rather the recognition of being seen and heard in moments of struggle.

Experiences are heard, when previously overlooked circumstances are transcended by the light of Christian charity. We seek a similar experience in accepting, through responsible consideration, the invitation of the First Nations Voice to Parliament.

The Voice to Parliament is about more than the status of our First Nations people.

It is not to be seen as just another step in the reconciliation process but an opportunity to consider the transformation of our society for all of us.

A society is possible where we acknowledge centuries of systemic disadvantage caused by colonisation, the associated injustices that continue to this day and a future with better outcomes.

Seeking to transform outcomes in areas of health, education, housing and jobs, as outlined by Indigenous Affairs minister Linda Burney, is not a zero-sum game. The pursuit of all related initiatives will be to the betterment of our society as a whole.

We need to consider the opportunity of a future where, as individuals and a society, we are willing to hear all the voices of our planet’s oldest living culture, on matters that directly affect them.

We have an opportunity for transformation, so will we be ready to embrace our metanoia moment?

Hope and prayer will guide the referendum in establishing a result which will truly reflect the responsible and informed heart of all our Australian people.

I encourage everyone to accept the invitation presented by the First Nations Voice to Parliament and the transformative opportunity that comes with it for a more just and compassionate society for all of us.

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