Social Justice Forum – Exploring Perspectives on The Voice

For a number of years, students from St Leonard’s College have participated in a Social Justice Forum offered by the Uniting Church Justice and International Unit. In doing this, we join with other schools associated with the Uniting Church from across the state. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to meet with others who share an interest in social justice, to exchange ideas, and to learn from and with one another.

On Tuesday 15 August, we headed to Penleigh and Essendon Grammar, where we gathered to develop an understanding about exactly what a referendum is and to explore different perspectives about the approaching referendum.

An introductory session explained the nature of a referendum, the concept of a double majority, and the history of referendum in Australia. After morning tea, Reverend Sharon Hollis, the President of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church, spoke about the history of the church with First Nations people. She described the development of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, and the importance of the various conversations and voices in the church’s understanding and development of relationships with First Nations peoples over the last 30 years. Lunch was followed by Reverend William Pickett and Carly Pickett sharing something of their story as Indigenous Australians. For some of our students, this was the first opportunity to meet and interact with First Nations people.

Each speaker stressed the responsibility and privilege of a vote, and the importance of gathering information from diverse voices and exploring different perspectives in order to make an informed decision.

At the end of the day, our students reflected on the experience. They observed that Australia is a diverse nation, and suggested we should not just acknowledge differences, but embrace them. They acknowledged the value of hearing different perspectives and expressed appreciation for the opportunity to share ideas with students from other schools. Many of them commented on the importance of understanding and being educated about things that affect others, of deepening and broadening their understanding of issues. They also appreciated the encouragement to do their own research and form their own opinions. What stood out in all the reflections was the value of relationships – meeting others, sharing stories, and developing understandings. This is beautifully summed up in the reflection of one student who wrote: “I came in not knowing much about the Voice, and I came out of it with a deeper perspective on the issue and I now know Will and Carly.”

We were very proud of the respect, insight, questions and engagement of our students.

Reverend Judith Watkins, College Chaplain and Lucinda Malgas, Director of Wellbeing and Social Action


Student Quotes

“I learnt about the daily struggles and setbacks Indigenous people experience in Australia.”

“It was interesting hearing different perspectives.”

“I really enjoyed today as it was an opportunity to connect with students from other schools about the important upcoming referendum for an Indigenous voice to parliament.”

“Today I was able to develop my opinion on the Voice to Parliament…if you don’t know, educate yourself.”

“My takeaway from this educational experience is that this isn’t just a political decision that affects a certain minority, it is a chance for Australia as a community to repave the path that our nation has been built on, and connect people together…Australia is a diverse country filled with different languages, nationalities and cultures and I think it is right to not only acknowledge our differences but embrace them.”

“It allowed me to gain a new perspective hearing different people talk about the issues and how it will personally affect them.”

“I think it was great that the speakers encouraged you to do your own research and form your own opinion.”

“It’s important to understand and be educated about what’s impacting others. I found it really rewarding to hear about various different perspectives about the voice referendum.”