Australia’s Jews should participate in Indigenous referendum

November 14, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Jewish people should accept an open invitation from Australia’s First Nations people to participate in the upcoming referendum on a voice for Indigenous people in Australia.

Daniel Aghion, Dean Parkin, Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann, Tahlia Bowen.

This was the message from Dean Parkin, director of From the Heart, who addressed a First Nations Q&A co-hosted by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), B’nai B’rith Victoria, Stand Up and the Ark Centre on Sunday. Karen Milward delivered the acknowledgement of country in Yorta Yorta language and Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann welcomed the audience to the Ark Centre.

Parkin, in front of an audience of more than 100 people, encouraged the community to discuss the need for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to Parliament, even when those conversations are awkward.

He drew on a 10-day trip he took to Israel in 2009, reflecting that: “I was there just long enough to show how ignorant I was. I know it can be awkward to engage on issues that are very complex.”

“Your community probably understands how long things take in terms of truth, reconciliation, breaking down barriers, living with consequences.”

The Quandamooka man added: “Recognition has been on the agenda for a long time. It is a very simple idea, it is not a political statement, it is not a moral argument, it is a fact.”

“This is not an indigenous question, it is not a question for 3.2% of the population, this is a question for all of us, for who we are as a nation.”

Parkin addressed thorny issues, including how to respond to people who believe that a Voice would privilege one group’s voice over others, whether First Nations people really need a voice given there are Indigenous MPs in parliaments around Australia, and whether diverse opinions within in the Indigenous community means this is not a well-supported idea.

To the latter, he wondered whether all Jewish people agree all the time on issues of faith or politics before adding: “There is a diversity of views among First Nations people. Let’s be really honest about that. That diversity of views is natural.”
Moderator, JCCV President Daniel Aghion KC, reminded the audience: “The Jewish community has long been a supporter of Indigenous rights and reconciliation”. He mentioned examples, including the late Ron Castan’s leadership of the Mabo land rights case in the High Court and the leadership of Mark Leibler of Reconciliation Australia. He noted that the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the JCCV have democratically adopted policies to support reconciliation.

Stand Up’s First Nation’s Partnerships Coordinator Tahlia Bowen told the audience that the Jewish community continues to foster long-term partnerships with First Nations communities on the NSW- Queensland border. She added Stand Up will roll out education to the Jewish community ahead of the referendum via its Come Together program.

“We need to respect that there are a lot of opinions and recognise that there are a lot of positions. Stand Up will be developing resources on our website on the campaign for people to read about the Jewish imperatives to get involved in,” Bowen said.


2 Responses to “Australia’s Jews should participate in Indigenous referendum”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    Australian Jews are no different to any other Australian. I will likely be voting for the proposal after I have read it. This is only right but a positive vote will take this issue off the political and media agenda too.

  2. Hear! Hear! Australia’s Jews should participate in Indigenous referendum

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