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Address to Sydney Anglican Synod: First Nations Voice

Friday, 7 October 2022  | Larissa Minniecon

Mr President and members of Synod,

Before I make my maiden speech before you tonight, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands in which I live, work and thrive - the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I also acknowledge my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elders who have worked tirelessly within the Sydney Anglican Diocese which has allowed me, the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman and Sydney Anglican Synod member, to have my voice heard today.

“God has set the standard for justice, as part of his character he cannot be unjust and he defines his work as perfect and all of his ways are just, God is Just – Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14)

Our God has set the standard – to make right that which is wrong – and we don’t have to look too far to see that Jesus is our standard of righteousness. That he died for all of our sins. All.

Synod, I stand before you all tonight as a reminder that, 55 years ago, I would not be allowed to stand before you. It’s not that I would have broken a law, but that the law in the constitution did not permit me to be counted as an Australian.

I did not count… my father, mother and my people did not count…

The Referendum of 1967 asked the people who were recognised as Australians to vote on the question: 'do you consider me an Australian?' And in this great change, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were formally voted to be part of your great democracy.

Today, The Uluru Statement of the Heart is one of the most important conversations that has captured the heart of Australia. This constitutional reform will empower my people to take a rightful place in our own country. Unlike the 1967 referendum, we are not protesting from the streets. Today we have our voices within parliament; these voices represent ministers, professors, teachers, barristers, artists, community leaders and educators… all First Nation leaders.

I quote from the Uluru Statement of the Heart:

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers.

They should be our hope for the future.

These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.

It is a torment to be in a state of powerlessness. My people are in crisis and we seek to be heard. This conversation of the Voice ‘From the Heart’ was established in 2017, and in 5 years and with a new Prime Minister we have moved this statement to the heart of our nation in Canberra.

Synod, I remind you that we are the only Commonwealth country not to have a treaty with its Indigenous peoples, to not have an Indigenous voice enshrined in the Constitution.

Today, I stand before you as an Australian citizen, as it says on my passport and birth certificate, but I am also a proud Kabi Kabi Gureng Gureng, Australian South Sea Islander and Torres Strait Islander woman, working, living and thriving on Gadigal lands. Our Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries of St Johns Glebe has welcomed this conversation within our parish, and on the 15th of October Scarred Tree is leading the conversation on Voice and the Church. Synod, I ask this question will you have this courageous conversation with us?

That truth-telling should begin in the church.

I am a woman of faith and I serve my church and community with steadfast love and faithfulness. As I stand before you today with this motion for a First Nations voice to Synod, as I exercise my democratic right as a citizen of Australia, and as I represent the oldest surviving culture in the world, I ask, in faith, that Synod consider passing this motion.


Larissa Minniecon is a Kabi Kabi woman and a Torres Strait Islander. She is currently undertaking a Masters degree in Narrative Therapy and Community Work through the University of Melbourne. Larissa is the Project Manager for the Our Story: Finding Hope Beyond Grief Project, which provides a biblical foundation for understanding and responding to the loss, grief and trauma experienced by Aboriginal women. The project is co-designed by the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) Women’s Fellowship (Eastern Region) and Anglican Deaconess Ministries. Read more here.


This address was delivered at the Third Session of the 52nd Sydney Anglican Synod held in September 2022. Resolution 33/22 on a ‘First Nations Voice’ was passed, with the following wording:

First Nations Voice: By resolution, the Synod, perceiving the opportunity for all Australians to contribute to a matter of national importance –

(a) welcomed the conversation regarding the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution, recognising this conversation to be an essential step in reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, perceiving this conversation to relate to the social, spiritual, and economic wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and believing this conversation will empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to create a better future for their communities to flourish,

(b) committed to learning more, and educating all Anglicans, about the Voice ‘From the Heart’, and

(c) encouraged church members to give generous consideration to the case to vote ‘Yes’ to the referendum question of whether the Constitution should establish a First Nations Voice, once the details have been made clear.

(See https://www.sds.asn.au/sites/default/files/ParishCircular.Synod%20Summary.2022%20with%20Attachment.pdf, p.5.)


Image credit: ‘Uluru Statement.jpg’ by BrownHoneyAnt. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.


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