Category Archives: community

A Call for Christians to Stand Up for Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Monday 20 June 2011

 

In the current debate on Australia’s policy on the treatment of asylum seekers, it is imperative that Christians be active in promoting respect for the dignity of every human being who flees persecution and violence and seeks asylum in our country.

There is little evidence that respect for the human dignity of asylum seekers is at the heart of either the Government’s or the Opposition’s policies.  Both sides support prolonged, mandatory detention of asylum seekers in isolated centres on mainland Australia and in offshore facilities; both sides have been responsible in government for locking up many children seeking asylum; and both sides are willing to ‘export’ asylum seekers to other countries where they are deprived of basic rights and subjected to further danger or harm.  These approaches can only add to the trauma, anxiety and deprivation suffered by asylum seekers.  They demonstrate a deplorable lack of compassion and are grossly unjust.

It is also apparent that the willingness of major political parties to adopt harsh policies which subject asylum seekers to trauma, humiliation and indignity is, in part, fuelled by hostile attitudes among some in the Australian community towards people of different races, ethnicities and religions.  Such intolerance and discrimination should not shape Australia’s policies on the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees nor should they be accepted by Christians or condoned by their silence.

In his Message for World Migrant and Refugee Day 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stressed the responsibility of Christians to be a sign of union with God and of the unity of the human family.  He said that it was imperative for us to welcome refugees as our sisters and brothers:

“… in the case of those who are forced to migrate, solidarity is nourished by the “reserve” of love that is born from considering ourselves a single human family and, for the Catholic faithful, members of the Mystical Body of Christ: in fact we find ourselves depending on each other, all responsible for our brothers and sisters in humanity and, for those who believe, in the faith. As I have already had the opportunity to say, ‘Welcoming refugees and giving them hospitality is for everyone an imperative gesture of human solidarity, so that they may not feel isolated because of intolerance and disinterest’.”

The Pope goes on to explain what welcoming our sisters and brothers seeking asylum entails:

“This means that those who are forced to leave their homes or their country will be helped to find a place where they may live in peace and safety, where they may work and take on the rights and duties that exist in the Country that welcomes them, contributing to the common good and without forgetting the religious dimension of life.”

While the Pope acknowledges that Governments have a responsibility to regulate the flow of migrants and to defend their borders, he insists that, whatever they do in this regard, they must always guarantee “the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person.”

The Government’s proposed agreement with Malaysia clearly fails to guarantee respect for the human dignity of asylum seekers.  It proposes to engage in people trading which is unconscionable and morally wrong under any circumstances, even if it achieved its aim of “stopping the boats”.  It cannot guarantee that those sent to Malaysia prompt and transparent processing of their claims for protection; it cannot guarantee that they will have access to work, education, health care or welfare; and it cannot guarantee their physical safety while awaiting a determination.

The Opposition’s proposal to resurrect “the Pacific solution” with the cooperation of the Government of Nauru fails the same human dignity test.  When this measure was employed by the Howard Government, it resulted in asylum seekers languishing on Nauru for years awaiting a determination and, when that determination was finally made, the vast majority of asylum seekers were found to be bona fide refugees who were resettled in Australia.  Many needed immediate and substantial medical treatment for the psychological traumatisation caused by their prolonged detention.

Offshore processing of refugee claims, whether in Malaysia, Nauru or Papua New Guinea has been instigated by successive Australian Governments as a means of thwarting so-called people smugglers.  There is no doubt that the exploitation of the misery and desperation of asylum seekers by people smugglers is abominable, but subjecting asylum seekers to harsh and inhumane treatment as a means of countering people smuggling is reprehensible as it only compounds the suffering and injustice asylum seekers endure.

While the numbers of asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat in recent years is higher than in the past, they are still very small compared with those seeking asylum in other countries.

As a wealthy nation and as a signatory to the Refugee Convention, Australia has the capacity and the responsibility to process and resettle the number of asylum seekers currently arriving on our shores. 

It is appalling that our political leaders would rather enlist developing nations which already have many asylum seekers within their borders to deal with those who come to our shores than to directly process their claims here in Australia as is our obligation under the Refugee Convention.

It is also deplorable that we insist on detaining asylum seekers in remote facilities for long periods at enormous financial expense to the country and at great expense to the mental and physical welfare of asylum seekers.  It is time that both major parties adopted other less harmful and expensive means of processing claims for protection promptly in Australia.

There are hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers in our region.  Most of them wait for many years in pitiful conditions for their refugee claims to be determined and to be resettled.  Our political leaders should devote much more of their energy to working with all the countries in our region with large numbers of asylum seekers, countries which re-settle refugees, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and non-government organisations working in the region to improve the standard of accommodation and support for asylum seekers, to improve and expedite the processing of refugee claims and to re-settle refugees more efficiently and promptly.  Such a regional focus will offer hope to the large numbers of people seeking protection in the Asia/Pacific region.  At the same time, it will offer Australia a framework within which it can seek assistance to deal with specifically Australian refugee issues without resorting to inhumane approaches.

Australia must fulfil its obligations in full as a signatory to the Refugee Convention; it should only do deals with countries which are signatories to the Convention; and it should actively work for a genuine regional framework for the processing of refugee claims and the resettlement of refugees.

The Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission will make our concerns known to the Federal Government and the Opposition, to all the Members of Parliament in our Archdiocese and to all Queensland’s Senators.  The Commission urges Catholics, our Christian sisters and brothers and all people who support the values informing the Refugee Convention to join with us in rejecting the crass and unseemly politicking which worsens the pain and injustice endured by asylum seekers and refugees and the racial and religious intolerance to which it panders.

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

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.
 

Last Days to Sign Petition re Sri Lankan Human Rights Violations

Friday 20 May 2011

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, in collaboration with Pax Christi Queensland, has launched a campaign to encourage the Australian Government to press for the full implementation of the recommendations of a report on accountability for human rights violations committed in the final stages of the bloody Sri Lanka conflict which ended two years ago.

The report was prepared for the United Nations Secretary-General by an advisory panel of three experts and was delivered to the Secretary-General in April.

The report found that there were credible allegations of serious violations of human rights law and humanitarian law committed by both the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE).

Allegations against the Government included that it shelled civilians in “safe zones”, that it shelled hospitals and humanitarian facilities and that it denied humanitarian assistance to victims of the conflict.

Allegations against the LTTE included that it killed civilians trying to flee LTTE-controlled areas, that it recruited child soldiers and that it recruited forced labour.

The advisory panel recommended that the Sri Lankan Government conduct a thorough investigation of these allegations in line with international standards and that the United Nations establish international mechanisms to support these investigations.

The panel also recommended that the Sri Lankan Government adopt a number of short term accountability measures which ensure respect and dignity for the victims and survivors of the conflict.

It also recommended a number of long term measures including a formal apology by the Sri Lankan Government for its human rights violations and the provision of reparations to survivors of the conflict.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that its campaign seeks to encourage the Australian Government to become a committed advocate of the full implementation of the report’s recommendations.

“Our fundamental concern is for a lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka,” Mr Arndt said.

“Hundreds of thousands of people were put through the most horrifying and appalling experience at the hands of both the Sri Lankan Army and the Tamil Tigers,” he said.

“There can be no healing unless those on both sides who were responsible for their suffering are held to account,” he said.

“The UN panel judged that the investigations and reconciliation processes put in place by the Sri Lankan Government to date are inadequate and flawed,” he said.

“We believe that Australia must play its part in ensuring that peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka is possible,” he said.

The Commission and Pax Christi Queensland launched their campaign last night at a prayer service at St Oliver Plunkett Church in Cannon Hill.

The campaign encourages people to sign a petition to the Senate and to contact their local MPs and Senators calling on them to encourage the Australian Government to support the UN panel’s recommendations.

“We have also asked that people pray for the people of Sri Lanka and especially for those who are still suffering including the thousands still in detention two years after the war,” Mr Arndt added.

Download copies of the Sri Lanka petition 2011 and the Sri Lanka info sheet 2011 (1)

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

NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Commission Issues Call for Climate Action


Monday 6 June 2011

 

 Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission today issued a statement calling for urgent and effective action on climate change.

The statement also called on Catholics to get involved in promoting effective action by government, industry and the community to address the serious threats posed by climate change.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Commission is concerned that too much time is being wasted by ill-informed debates about climate science and by self-interest.

“We think it is time for people in the community and the Church to stop wasting time debating whether climate change is happening and whether human beings are the cause,” Mr Arndt said.

“The reality is that the proposition that the earth is warming is supported by the vast majority of scientists who are prepared to publish their findings in scientific journals and subject themselves to the searching scrutiny of their fellow scientists,” he said.

“They also agree with almost total certainty that human activity has caused this,” he said.

“We cannot waste any more time because the consequences of delay will be dreadful for future generations,” he said.

The Commission’s statement refers to a recent report of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences which summarises information about the current evidence for climate change and recommends urgent action to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Arndt said that the Commission did not feel it had the capacity to make judgments about the different mechanisms being proposed for bringing about a transition in the Australian economy in which carbon emissions are drastically reduced.

“We do, however, feel strongly that policies need to bring about significant reductions in carbon emissions and that this means a move away from burning of fossil fuels and towards the use of renewable energy as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences report recommends,” he said.

“The Commission also sees the need for an adequate response,” he said.

“Both sides of politics are currently committing to a 5% reduction in carbon emissions and this is not likely to be enough if we are to avoid massive problems down the track,” he said.

“The Commission also stresses that the plight of those already suffering the consequences of climate change such as those in Pacific island nations need to be remembered,” he said.

“Those who are poor and vulnerable in Australia also need to be protected from the economic consequences of a transition to renewable energy,” he said.

“The Commission calls on everyone to work together to come up with a plan which effectively addresses the threats of climate change,” he said.

“We want to see political and economic self-interest put aside in favour of protecting the long term interests of God’s creation, the whole human family and all the precious ecosystems which sustain us,” he said.

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

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Solidarity with South Sudan

Map of Southern SudanThe Sudanese Bishops at their last meeting in Jubathis May have outlined a program and prayer in the lead-up to becoming the world’s newest nation on July 9th.

The campaign is launched on Saturday May 28th with Eucharistic processions. The next day Sunday 29th becomes a Day of Reconciliation as described

“Preaching on reconciliation at all levels social, political and religious. Reconciliation among tribes – mending differences through traditional and religious reconciliation rituals and symbols”.

 On Pentecost Day there will be blessing and planting of trees as symbols of new birth. Dioceses, families, institutions, school, and parishes will be encouraged to plant a tree.

Some trees will produce medicine, a sign of healing from trauma and war. Other trees will give fruit as signs of hope and promise.

On June 29th a novena will focus on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

Please join them in your prayer. There have been some violent incidents in the border areas over the past 5 months. They pray for peace, courage and hope.

Parishes, schools, agencies and households are invited to pray for them in their times of prayer and in their Eucharistic prayers of the faithful.  The set prayer below may be helpful for those wishing to incorporate prayer for Sudan into their times of prayer.

Prayer for the Republic of South Sudan

God of Mercies, we thank you for your great love for us.

We ask you to guide our leaders in the process of nation building.

Grant them wisdom, compassion and fortitude.

Loving God, give us courage to reject ethnic resentment

as well as ethnic conflicts.

Through the intercession of St. Josephine Bakhita, help us

to overcome hurt, hostility and bitterness in our hearts

so that we become reconciled citizens in our new nation.

Renew in us the will for honest and hard work,

and bring us closer to you in the spirit of service,

unity and lasting peace.

Lord, we pray for our heroes, our martyrs and all innocent people

who died during the long years of war.

 We pray in thanksgiving for all those who stood by us

in solidarity to bring about peace.

 Unite us from every tribe, tongue and people.

Send your Holy Spirit upon us and may your will be done in us.

 God bless our new nation;

Bless theRepublic of South Sudan.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

West Papua Solidarity

The West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane will hold a gathering  on Thursday 12 May at which it will screen the award-winning film Strange Birds in Paradise.

We also expect to have a guest speaker, Rosa Moiwend, a researcher for the Justice & Peace Office in Jayapura, West Papua.  Rosa will speak on the implications for tribal groups of MIFEE, the proposed large scale food security estate to be established in West Papua.

The event will take place at the BCC Brisbane Square Library community meeting room.  Refreshments will be served from 5.30 p.m.  The talk will start at 6.15 p.m. and the film will be shown from 7.15 p.m.

All are welcome.  Entry is free, but donations to cover costs and assist our campaign work would be greatly appreciated.

Please RSVP to  Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476..

Commission Continues Good Friday Death Penalty Vigil

Monday 11 April 2011

For the fourth year, Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission will hold a Good Friday prayer vigil for those on death row at Christ the King Catholic Church, Churchill Street, Graceville.

The vigil, which will be held at noon, will be an opportunity for Christians to offer prayer support for all those facing execution around the world, for their families and for all victims of crime.

While prayers will be offered for all on death row around the world, special focus will be given to the three Australians on death row in Bali, Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and Scott Rush, whose family is a part of the parish where the vigil will be held.

Prayers will also be offered for the Nigerian man, Titus Ani, who shares a cell with the Australians and for whom the Corinda-Graceville Parish provides special support.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the three Australians in Bali have been waiting for a long time for the outcome of their final appeals to the Indonesian Supreme Court.

“All three men lodged their appeals soon after the middle of last year and there is still no word on a decision,” Mr Arndt said.

“This is a very difficult time for these men who are detained in overcrowded conditions in Bali,” he said.

“It is also a time of immense anguish and pain for their parents and families,” he said.

“As we remember Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, we remember all those who suffer in our world today,” he said.

“God’s love brought to birth new life out of Jesus’ death,” he said.

“We pray in great hope that God’s love will also end the pain and suffering of those on death row and of all those who love them,” he said.

All are welcome to join the vigil.

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

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Government Must Change Detention Policy

Monday 21 March 2011

Government Must Change Detention Policy

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged the Federal Government to abandon policies which detain asylum seekers and refugees in remote locations for prolonged periods.

The call was made following recent protests and violent incidents in a number of the Government’s immigration detention centres.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Government’s policies are adding to the suffering of deeply traumatised people and contributing to a grave injustice.

 

“The Government’s insistence on detaining asylum seekers in remote, overcrowded locations for prolonged periods is simply outrageous,” Mr Arndt said.

 

“These are people who have suffered much before they get here and, when they arrive here to seek protection, they are subjected to prolonged and harsh treatment which can only add to their stress and anxiety,” he said.

 

“The Government’s requirement that people who have been accepted as refugees must wait for long periods in these dreadful detention centres for ASIO security clearances is a totally unnecessary further impost,” he said.

 

“If we are happy to let tourists and students come into our country without locking them up awaiting a security clearance, why can’t we let these genuine refugees out into the community while these clearances are sought?” he said.

 

“Is it any wonder that people who are already mentally fragile and stressed react to this seriously unjust processing regime with protests and riots?” he said.

 

“Add to this the fact that there are still many children locked up in these centres exposed to all this anger and violence and you have an appalling state of affairs,” he said.

 

“The last thing we need is detention centre staff and police using force to respond to the frustration and anger of detained refugees,” he said.

 

“The people locked up in these centres have only exercised their right to seek protection from persecution and what they have been subjected to in return is a deplorable abuse of their human rights,” he said.

 

“The Government’s policies are to blame for what has happened on Christmas Island, at Curtin and Weipa, not the refugees,” he said.

 

“The Government is subjecting asylum seekers and refugees to the prolonged, mandatory detention which it said it would end even though it knows this causes more mental stress and anguish for asylum seekers,” he said.

 

“We urge the Government to stop using and building detention centres in remote areas, to stop detaining mentally fragile and traumatised people for prolonged periods, to stop the use of violence to deal with detainees’ frustrations and complaints and to stop detaining children in these centres,” he said.

 

“Justice demands that the claims of asylum seekers be processed speedily and in accordance with the provisions of all the international human rights conventions and that all claimants be treated with respect and dignity while their claims are processed,” he said.

 

“This is not happening in Australia now and it must stop,” he said.

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

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

 

Politicians Must Stop Using Asylum Seekers as Political Football

Media Release

Monday 21 February 2011

 Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on both the Government and the Opposition to stop using asylum seekers as political footballs.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the behaviour of both sides of politics last week over the handling of asylum seekers attending funerals of family members was deplorable and insensitive.

“Both sides of politics are clearly shaping their decisions and comments to pander to mean-spirited attitudes towards asylum seekers within the community,” Mr Arndt said.

“It is high time that all our politicians gave leadership on this issue rather than giving in to the callous, negative attitudes of some in the community,” he said.

 “Raising questions about the Government flying twenty-two asylum seekers from Christmas Island to Sydney to attend the funerals of family members on the very day of the funerals is heartless and insensitive,” he said.

“Sending nine year old Iranian orphan, Seena, back to Christmas Island instead of to family in Sydney is an equally deplorable act,” he said.

“These actions seem to have no regard or respect for the Christmas Island asylum seekers as human beings who have gone through immense trauma,” he said.

“They seem to be no more than tools to score points or get a cheap headline,” he said.

“Seena and all the other asylum seekers on Christmas Island and elsewhere in Australia deserve not only compassion, but justice,” he said.

 “All human beings, especially those who have experienced great trauma, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as a matter of justice,” he said.

“We should not be locking up traumatised people in overcrowded facilities in remote, isolated locations with inadequate support services for long periods, as the recent Ombudsman’s report says,” he said.

 “Australia should not have a thousand children like Seena in detention if it has any sense of decency and justice,” he said.

 “Our political leaders should know better,” he said.

 “How can they speak with any authority when they criticise other countries for abusing human rights if they do not respect human rights in the way they treat asylum seekers in our own country?” he said.

 “We as Christians should be making it clear to our politicians that we want them to treat asylum seekers with compassion and justice,” he said.

“We have a responsibility to speak up for our sisters and brothers in need,” he said.

 “We should all be making it clear to our leaders and our MPs that we will not tolerate the political games we have seen over the past week,” he said.

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

 NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Mandate which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Support our Letter Writing Campaign for the Release of Political Prisoners in West Papua

The Brisbane  Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has recently written to Prime Minister Gillard asking her what her Government is doing to pressure the Indonesian Government to release political prisoners in West Papua and to stop violent military repression of peaceful political activists.

You can download a copy of the letter here or use the text below as a guide for your letter to the PM. You might like to us the comment box for this item to add your voice of concern and share your response to this campaign.

Contact Details for Prime Minister Gillard

 

An Appeal to the Prime Minister for Human Rights in West Papua

The Hon Julia Gillard MP

The Prime Minister

Parliament House

CANBERRA  ACT  2600

Date: …………

Dear Ms Gillard

Last November, you welcomed the release of Aung San Suu Kyi by the Burmese regime after a long period of detention. At the same time, you called for the Burmese leaders to release other political prisoners and to take other actions to promote democracy and peace.  Your comments were appropriate and welcome.

I am writing to urge you to adopt the same strong position with Indonesian authorities in relation to those Papuan political activists who have been jailed for expressing their political views peacefully.  Activists such as Filep Karma, should not be in jail for raising a flag or participating in a peaceful protest.

Your Government’s concerns about revelations of torture of a Papuan man by members of the Indonesian military are also very welcome.  There is much reliable evidence to suggest that this is not an isolated incident.  The brutal repression of Papuans is commonplace and long-running.  This appalling state of affairs is compounded by the failure to provide adequate social and economic opportunities to most indigenous Papuans.

You would be aware that special autonomy for West Papua has not operated effectively and has failed to overcome these serious problems.  You would also be aware that there is growing dissatisfaction among Papuans with this state of affairs.

Violent repression in West Papua must end.  While I am not campaigning for West Papuan independence, I passionately advocate that the political, civil, social and economic rights of the people of West Papua must be respected and promoted by Australia.  In line with your call for human rights and democracy in Burma, I urge you to also encourage the Indonesian Government to take swift and effective steps to end the abuse of military power in West Papua and to rectify the unsatisfactory political, economic and social situation in the province.

Please advise me what steps your Government is taking to secure the release of political prisoners in West Papua, to end the violent repression of Papuans and to bring about political arrangements which will ensure that they can exercise democratic freedom and live in dignity.

Yours sincerely

Signature: …………………………………………………

Name: ………………………………………………….

Address: ……………………………………………….


Statement on Aboriginal Rights by Leading Australians.

A Call to the People of Australia from Indigenous Elders

MEDIA RELEASE

Monday February 7 2011

Australia has faced questioning at the United Nations by member states and independent experts regarding its Indigenous policies.  The failure to restore the rights of Aboriginal people is currently being scrutinised under the Universal Periodic Review process of the UN Human Rights Council and was criticised in 2010 by both the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Such scrutiny can only reveal just how far Australia is lagging behind international standards on human rights policies. Changes are urgently needed.

In such a context, we have become increasingly concerned by the failure of the Federal Government, with the tacit support of the Opposition, to properly address problems facing Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. In particular, the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the Intervention) has been progressed without credible consultation with, or the approval of, Aboriginal people.

While there are some limited aspects of the Intervention that have been viewed positively in some Aboriginal communities, it is the compulsory nature of the policies which are of concern.

It is our belief that inequality cannot be addressed by the removal of control from affected peoples over their lives and land, as is current Government policy.  Positive change requires respect and genuine engagement with the people themselves at the local level, rather than an isolated policy development in Canberra.

Examples of the failure of policies include:

  • The delayed, incomplete and flawed reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act.
  • The entrenchment of discrimination against Aborigines in the criminal law of the NT by failing to repeal s. 91 of the NTER Act which ensures that no customary law or cultural practice, excuses, justifies, authorises, requires or lessens the seriousness of any criminal behaviour with which the Crimes Act is concerned.
  • The retention and widening of involuntary income management in order to give it a veneer of non discrimination.
  • The failure to provide proper housing exemplified by the slow pace of doing so and the fact that of new houses built by Government under the SIHIP1 programme to alleviate overcrowding, there is a failure to take into account the size or requirements of the average Aboriginal family
  • The failure to provide full time education to Aboriginal children, which is a right of all Australian children. Examples include:

The fact that the 46 Aboriginal Homeland Learning Centres for which the NT Department of Education and Training2 is responsible have never been allocated full-time qualified teachers and are reliant on fly-in fly-out teachers, often for only one or two days per week.

The failure of NTER measures such as the policy of removal of welfare entitlements where there is unsatisfactory school attendance, in that recent figures from the NT Department of Education2 show a steady fall in attendance at schools in very remote areas between 2006-7 and 2009-10.

  • Maintaining the intervention despite evidence such as:

The Health Impact Assessment3 launched in March 2010, which found that the Intervention could potentially lead to profound long-term damage to overall health and cultural integrity.

The 2010 Enquiry into NT Child Protection4 which links health problems to community disadvantage and poverty associated with overcrowding, unsafe and stressful environments, poor community infrastructure, poor nutrition and limited health care, all of which were supposed to have been addressed by the intervention.

The Government’s policy approach must move from one of bureaucratic control by Canberra to one of recognition of Aboriginal leadership, negotiation, capacity building and direct input by Aboriginal people to local government decision-making. Without the direct engagement with Aboriginal people, policy changes will fail. With Aboriginal leaders, Government must commit to a policy of support by developing economies, encouraging investment and creating jobs by improving transport and communication systems, and where appropriate, the use of taxation incentives.

Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory must have choice and must not be forced to abandon their lands and heritage in order to obtain services that are automatically provided to other Australians.  The vision that is created must be one that is shared by both black and white.

We accordingly call upon the Government to start afresh, to comply with our international obligations by bringing the Northern Territory Intervention to an end, including the termination of involuntary income management and securing Aboriginal rights in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Present flawed legislation including that purporting to re-instate the Racial Discrimination Act and s 91 of the NTER Act should be repealed and the Racial Discrimination Act reintroduced in an unqualified form.

Signed:

Diana Batzias                                                              Peter Norden AO

Professor Larissa Behrendt                                         Rev Alistair Macrae

Rev Shayne Blackman                                                 Hon Colleen Moore

The Hon Sally Brown AM                                            Hon Ron Merkel ­QC

Julian Burnside QC                                                      Graeme Mundine

Fred Chaney AO                                                          Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC

Patrick Dodson                                                            Dr Sarah Prichard

Hon Elizabeth Evatt AC                                               Professor Cheryl Saunders AO

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH GCL PC Brother Paul Smith AM

The Most Reverend Philip Freier                                Professor Fiona Stanley AC

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM                                 Rev Ken Sumner

Hon Paul Guest QC                                                     Assoc Professor John Tobin

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM                                       Bret Walker SC

Phil Lynch                                                                    Brian Walters SC

Professor Tim McCormack                                         Hon Ian Viner AO QC

Assoc Professor Sarah Maddision

Reference Notes:

1Information provided by FaHCSIA

2NT Department of Education and Training Annual Report 2008-09 Page 27     http://www.det.nt.gov.au/about-us/publications/annual-report-200809

3Medical Journal of Australia August 2010 http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/192_10_170510/oma10307_fm.html

4Growing Them Strong, Together Report page 17  http://www.childprotectioninquiry.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/49786/Executive_Summary.pdf