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From the Assistant Bishop

Synod and the Referendum
- Exercising our right

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The Right Reverend Kate Wilmot, Assistant Bishop

Two things are rapidly coming over the horizon for October and they have importance for us all.

On October 7 we head to another session of the Fifty-First Diocesan Synod and just a few days later take our part in the Referendum addressing the question of a Voice to Parliament.

It’s interesting to have the referendum in mind as we turn out attention to Synod.

When I was first a Synod rep, in the nineties, there were still some occasional references to ‘Synodsmen’ harking back to a time when most of the members of Synod were literally men. A quick glance at the assembly told me that even in the mid-nineties, there were very few younger women taking their place on the floor of Synod.

Over time in the Australian Church some careful work has gone into making sure that representatives at Synods are women as well as men, young as well as middle aged and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people as well as those whose family history in this country is more recent.

It’s also true that views and opinions of individual Aboriginal people or young people or women in Synod differ – we wouldn’t expect them all to think the same, because Synod underlines for us that Anglicans as a group think differently about issues.

The whole point of Synod is that we gather, bringing our issues of importance to the conversation, that these things are debated and discussed, that consultation takes place and that resolutions are referred to the right place for further development.

A recent change to our way of doing Synod business is that significant items of policy or legislation are now referred for consultation before Synod takes place.
Since the referendum was announced, I have sat down with friends who are concerned that granting a voice to parliament will bring dire consequences - caveats placed over private land is a big example.

I’m sad to think that people I value are living with fears like these.

In Synod, it’s not possible for ideas to become church law on the spot. Motions to Synod are debated, sometimes amended or refined, passed or rejected and often referred to the policy or legislation committees for further development.

These committees may discover unintended consequences and consult with the original mover of the motion so that the proposal has the best chance of being achieved.

The Voice to Parliament is not about catapulting ideas into law because this would be unproductive for everyone. It is about adding a layer of consultation so that better outcomes are possible, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens and for all Australian people.

If a Voice to Parliament becomes a reality, then the processes of parliamentary lawmaking will operate as usual and government can accept or reject a proposal as it sees fit. The difference will be that the listening will have happened beforehand.

I join my prayers with yours as we approach our Synod and an important moment in Australian Constitutional history.

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