NAIDOC’s 2023 theme “For Our Elders” has been taken up in Christian terms by the Macarthur Indigenous Church in its annual NAIDOC painting.

“God loves our elders, he loves their families and our hope [for] all our old people, they'll find hope and healing in Christ Jesus,” said Dunghutti man, the Rev Michael Duckett, while explaining the latest artwork.

Mr Duckett, who also chairs the Sydney Anglican Indigenous People’s Ministry Committee, “yarns” the Bible at the Macarthur church.

Along with the NAIDOC painting, the committee has released a statement about the coming referendum on an indigenous Voice to Parliament.

“The Sydney Anglican Indigenous Peoples Ministry Committee affirms that God’s voice is sovereign over all peoples and lands and notes:
·      Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been denied a voice following European settlement in this land,
·      there are benefits and challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through a recognised Voice to the Australian Parliament,
·      the passing of Motion 33/22 “First Nations Voice” by the Sydney Anglican Diocesan Synod and,
·      the “Statement on the Voice to Parliament” as affirmed by the General Synod Standing Committee of the Anglican Church of Australia. 
We encourage all church members to prayerfully seek God’s voice as they search his wisdom in considering a “yes” vote for the approaching referendum.”

The statement references the 2022 motion of the Sydney Synod, or church parliament, which “encourages 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”.

The Diocesan Social Issues Committee will be releasing educational resources on the subject of the referendum in coming weeks.

Several aboriginal elders speak in the Macarthur video, including Wiradjuri elder, Uncle Rob Bell, from the Snowy Mountains.

“Being part of the elders NAIDOC this year is something that… we need to acknowledge all of us across the nation,” Mr Bell said. “To show… even with Parliament now trying to get a Voice for Aboriginal people in Parliament, you know, it's a good thing, but it's not the main thing. The main thing is believing in your faith and acknowledging your elders.”

Mr Duckett emphasised the role of elders in Indigenous culture.

“We need to respect them in how we talk about them, how we talk to them, we need to protect our elders so our older people aren't taken advantage of, they're not abused and talked poorly about,” he said. “Because regardless of the referendum and the Voice, we will still have a voice in this country and God listens to our voice and we hope that this might be a blessing this year to our old people.”

NAIDOC Week runs from July 2-9.