A Voice in the Wilderness

Listening to the ‘Statement from the Heart’

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.
We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country.
We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

Quote, Statement from the Heart

In 2017 the Anglican Church of Australia responded to the historic Statement from the Heart made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives at Uluru.

General Synod supported the call for a constitutionally-entrenched First Nations’ Voice  to the Commonwealth Parliament and asked the Public Affairs Commission to prepare resources in consultation with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council.

ABM has responded with an 8-part study designed to help the church listen to the Statement from the Heart and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christians.

It was written by ABM’s Reconciliation Coordinator, Celia Kemp, with art by the Rev Glenn Loughrey and an Appendix by Dr Carolyn Tan.

It has been endorsed by the Primate, the National Aboriginal Bishop, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council and the Public Affairs Commission of the Anglican Church.

We are grateful for the generous support of the Society of the Sacred Mission who have subsidised the printing and distribution of the study.

Additional Resources

Download a six-part Leaders Guide to accompany A Voice in the Wilderness.

NATSIAC endorses this study as a fantastic tool to focus on the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia. It is a powerful document which is engaging and thought provoking. We would encourage all Christians to engage with the material with an open heart and an open mind.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council

Listening is an important, if not dying, art form. Being able to hear the voice of the other is deeply challenging. It seems to me, at least, that many Australians wish to hear the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They truly want to hear what is on our hearts. Yet, at the same time there are some whose hearts have turned cold, and do not wish to listen to anything but their own voices. ‘The Statement from the Heart’ is an important voice for the aspirations and hopes of the First Nations peoples of our land. It deserves to be heard by many, and for those who have stopped their ears it could become a chance for ‘hearts of stone to be turned into hearts of flesh.’ (Ezekiel 36: 26). ‘Voice in the wilderness: Listening to the Statement of the Heart’ is the creation of loving listening by Celia Kemp; encouraging the Church to stop and listen. This study also gifts us with the opportunity to ‘listen’ to the art of Glenn Loughrey, a Wiradjuri man and Anglican Priest; the penetrating voice of sight, colour and image. I encourage all who use this important study to stop, listen, and pray that our ears may be opened and our nation’s broken heart healed.
Bishop Chris McLeod

National Aboriginal Bishop

This study guide by Celia Kemp and Glenn Loughrey is of historical significance. Originally released a year after the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’, it is a well-considered, deeply sensitive response from the heart of the Church. It shows that what was expressed in the Uluru Statement has been listened to with compassion and understanding. Like meets like, and in particular this study shows that the spiritual is political. The Uluru Statement made it clear that Aboriginal sovereignty is spiritual, and to facilitate any treaty or reconciliation involves more than red-tape and administration. It affirmed the ongoing spiritual basis of the First Nations and said: ‘How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?’

Celia Kemp and Glenn Loughrey respect the plea from Uluru by ensuring that this ‘sacred link’ is very much to the forefront in what they write and paint. The fact that theirs is a combined effort from a non-indigenous writer and an indigenous artist makes ‘A Voice in the Wilderness’ even more hopeful. The response includes impressive paintings by Glenn, who is a Wiradjuri man and an Anglican priest. Celia’s words are more than words; the reader can feel her spiritual passion for the project, and her desire to give public expression to the call of the indigenous peoples for justice, truth and acknowledgement. To this end, Celia has researched an enormous number of papers and consulted the most up to date information and websites on Aboriginal history and cultures. She has assembled this material alongside stories, quotes, scripture, questions and prayer. I commend this study to churched and unchurched alike, and hope that as we read it we become better informed about our past and more able to find a pathway to a creative future.

David Tacey

Author | Emeritus Professor | Adjunct Research Professor , Edge of the Sacred | La Trobe University, Melbourne | Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Canberra

Celia Kemp’s fine work, bringing as it does so clearly the voices of indigenous elders and leaders, resonates with the Bible’s call to reconciliation: ‘to be neighbour’ – genuinely and deeply to one another. This excellent study is a gift to the whole church, compassionately leading us through a troubled history towards a genuine hope for reconciliation. ‘A Voice in the Wilderness’ calls our attention to what has been, what is and what we might hope for. Illustrated throughout by the powerful work of priest, artist and Wiradjuri man Glenn Loughrey, this study speaks with more than words. This is an opportunity to incorporate more fully the wisdom and passion of Indigenous people of faith into the Anglican Church of Australia. I encourage every Anglican to embark on the journey of discovery this study offers. We will be a better church for it.
The Most Reverend Dr Philip L. Freier

Archbishop | Primate, Melbourne | Anglican Church of Australia

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was a defining moment in the recent history of this land. It expresses a gracious gift offered to non-Indigenous Australians, an invitation to walk with the peoples of the First Nations to a better future in this country. The journey, however, will be one that involves honesty and truth-telling. It requires a willingness to build new relationships of substantive equality. It demands deep listening.

A Voice in the Wilderness is an excellent guide to prepare us for such a journey. The Anglican Church has passed synod resolutions and made submissions in support of constitutional recognition and reforms to bring about substantive legal changes for First Nations People. The Church has also called for resources to enable people to reflect theologically on the issues and on the Uluru Statement. A Voice in the Wilderness is one wonderful example of such a resource. It provides informative links, discussion questions that force us to reflect on our assumptions, Biblical reflections, with quotes and prayers emerging from First Nations’ voices and their experiences of God in this land. The stunning and confronting artwork by the Rev Glenn Loughrey is a brilliant illustration of the themes that also make us ponder our hard history and need for a better way.

Celia Kemp, the author, will be well known to those who have used and loved the ABM apps Into the Desert and Deep Calls to Deep. A Voice in the Wilderness is also written in Celia’s clear and concise style, with a huge depth of reading and research behind it. She has also consulted widely with First Nations People and others across Australia in writing this. I congratulate the ABM on a superb and much-needed publication.

Carolyn Tan

Chairperson, Public Affairs Commission, Anglican Church

This timely study is designed to help the church listen to the Statement from the Heart and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christians.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Council commends it as a ‘powerful document which is engaging and thought provoking’ and the Primate has encouraged all Anglicans to embark on the journey of discovery it offers.