I write today about my campaign to make the Victorian Parliament the most inclusive place it can be for all Victorians – regardless of their faith.
At the start of each day in the Legislative Council of Victoria, we begin with a recitation of The Lord’s Prayer. I am not religious, so I choose, with a growing number of my colleagues, to wait outside the Chamber until the conclusion of the prayer. I then take my place for the Acknowledgement of Country to pay respect to our indigenous brothers and sisters.
In Victoria, census figures show that the majority of the population identifies either as having no faith at all, or of having a faith other than Christianity. And the make-up of our parliament reflects this. In the Legislative Council, when members are sworn into office, they do so by taking either an ‘oath’ of allegiance or ‘affirmation’ of allegiance. An oath has religious significance while an affirmation does not. Over half of the MPs elected at the last election took the affirmation.
Victorians quite rightly celebrate and cherish our state’s multiculturalism and we believe that Parliament should as well. Starting our day with a prayer from one single religion is discriminatory. It’s that simple.
So, how do we ensure that everyone is included?
Instead of reciting a prayer from just one religion, we are proposing a simple change.
When the President of the Legislative Council takes the Chair at the commencement of each sitting day, they will ask for:
“Members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of Victoria.”
Put simply, self-reflection is taking the time to think about, evaluate, meditate, pray or in some way give serious thought to our motivations, attitudes, behaviours and desires. It’s the process of taking a moment to consider what’s important to us and the communities we represent.
It means those of faith – all faiths – can pray if they wish and those who are not religious can take that time to reflect on the important duties charged to us by the people of our state.
It’s a win for everyone, and certainly is in line with the values that Victorians would want to see reflect in those they elect to represent them.