Commission Urges Catholics to Hold Politicians to Account on Indigenous Policy

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Report of the Northern Territory Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse (Also known as the “Little Children are Sacred” report.) Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission today urged Catholics to hold politicians of all parties to account during the forthcoming Federal election for their policies concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Commission issued this call with the full support of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisors.

The Commission has called for particular attention to be given to the Federal Government’s continuing use and extension of income management measures in the Northern Territory.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that many Aboriginal people in the Territory, in particular, and around Australia are unhappy with the impact of income management on individual Aborigines.

“Income management means quarantining half of a person’s Centrelink payment for food and other basics and is applied to all Centrelink beneficiaries irrespective of how they manage their money,” Mr Arndt said.

“Whether you feed and clothe your children or spend your money on alcohol and gambling, you get the same treatment,” he said.

“Having a ‘one size fits all’ measure applied to all Centrelink beneficiaries in the Territory shows no respect for people’s dignity,” he said.

“Having to use a special card to buy your groceries is also humiliating,” he said.

“I am sure the Minister, Jenny Macklin, has heard some positive comments from Aboriginal people in the Territory, but she seems to be ignoring the many stories of people getting into serious difficulty as a result of this measure,” he said.

“We are also concerned that income management is not improving the situation,” he said.

“A number of reports are even suggesting that things are not improving and may be going backwards in some cases,” he said.

“We strongly support the Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop Christopher Saunders, when he recently urged our political leaders to develop supportive and empowering initiatives to address problems for Aboriginal communities in the Territory,” he said.

“Decades of paternalistic action which does not include Aboriginal people in the process of developing initiatives have failed and wasted a lot of money,” he said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities need to participate in efforts to address the problems they face,” he said.

“We urge Catholics to ask their local candidates who support the current policies for clear evidence that things are getting better,” he said.

“We also urge Catholics to encourage their local candidates to back initiatives which support and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

This media release is issued with the approval of the Commission under the provisions of its Mandate which enable it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in this media release do not necessarily represent those of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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