Australian Women Preach

Turning the page in our nation’s history: Sherry Balcombe preaches on the Voice to Parliament


10 August 2023

“We’re at an incredible time in Australia’s history, we are in history right now. We’re about to turn a page … we’re about to write a page.”

Djabugay/Olkola woman Sherry Balcombe delivers a powerful case for the proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament in this week’s episode of the Australian Women Preach podcast.

Sherry is the Executive Manager of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Victoria. She offers her wisdom and experience as a First Nations woman in this special podcast episode. 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,” Sherry explains. “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.”

“The government keeps throwing money at Close the Gap, the gap’s getting bigger people! Can you see that?”

“We need to be at the table that is making decisions about our lives.”

In this 20-minute podcast episode, Sherry explains that the Voice is the first step in strengthening Australia’s relationship with its First Peoples, moving us toward truth-telling about our history and a treaty. Steps which she believes are critical to the future generations of First Nations people.

“You know, we don’t want to be creating gangsters. We want to create warriors. We want to strengthen our people. We need to bring back that spirituality, because the spirituality is what’s kept us strong over all these years,” she says.

Reflecting on the story of Jesus walking on water, Sherry speaks 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, Sherry asks the Church, “are you going to joyfully receive us?”

Pondering the long journey of resistance and the path to reconciliation, Sherry says it’s vital to create safe 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 Sherry’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, grew out of a desire to share the gifts and insights of diverse women within the church in Australia. It is a joint initiative of WATAC (Women and the Australian Church) and The Grail in Australia. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to hear the voices of a number of First Nations women on the podcast and through our recently published book, In Her Voice.

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