Sherry Balcombe preaches on the Voice to Parliament
Djabugay/Olkola woman Sherry Balcombe delivered a case for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament in a recent episode of the Australian Women Preach podcast.
Ms Balcombe is the Executive Manager of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Victoria. Reflecting on the upcoming referendum, Sherry says listening to the voices of First Nations people is critical to ending entrenched disadvantage for Indigenous Australians.
“We’ve got more (Indigenous) kids in out of home care now than we did in 1997 when they did the Bringing Them Home report,” she said.
“We’ve had over 500 black deaths in custody since they did the Royal Commission. Things aren’t working. Incarceration rates are going up, our health is going down.”
“We need to be at the table that is making decisions about our lives.”
In the podcast episode, Sherry said the Voice is the first step in strengthening Australia’s relationship with its First Peoples, moving us toward truth-telling about history and a treaty. Steps which she believes are critical to the future generations of First Nations people.
Reflecting on the story of Jesus walking on water, Sherry spoke about the historic work on a new text for the Catholic Mass created for and by Aboriginal people. Quoting Pope John Paul II, Sherry reminds us that “until Aboriginal people and their contribution is joyfully received, the church in Australia won’t be the Church that Jesus wants it to be.” Describing the deeper calling to do this work, Ms Balcombe asked the Church, “are you going to joyfully receive us?”
Pondering the long journey of resistance and the path to reconciliation, she said it’s vital to create spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to share and celebrate their culture.
While the words of Noel Pearson, “We are a much unloved people in this country,” echo in Ms Balcombe’s heart, she has hope.
“We’ve survived… we’re here, and we’re getting stronger, and we’re looking to the future for a brighter, a brighter tomorrow for all of us.”
The Australian Women Preach podcast is an initiative which aims to raise women’s voices in preaching the Gospel. The podcast, about to enter its third year. It is a joint initiative of WATAC (Women and the Australian Church) and The Grail in Australia.