Category Archives: community

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.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday

NATSICC Assembly 2009

NATSICC Assembly 2009

Today is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council provided liturgy resources.

As web editor of this site, I would like to invite you to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday 2010 with images and reflections I have prepared from some of my documentary work among Indigenous people.

Refugee Week 2010

Refugee Week
ImageWorld Refugee Week runs from Sunday 20 June to Saturday 26 June.  This year’s theme is Freedom from Fear.  The Refugee Council of Australia has produced a series of resources for the Week including a poster, facts and figures about refugees, an event planning guide and teacher materials.  The resources are available atRefugee Council

The Brisbane CJPC has also produced a resource for reflection and action: Welcoming the Stranger

A broad coalition of community groups, including the Commission, have joined together to organise a rally and march to express opposition to the actions and policies of both the Government and Opposition in relation to refugees and asylum seekers.  This is an opportunity to publicly reject the lack of compassion and respect for the dignity of those seeking asylum in Australia.  The rally will be held on World Refugee Day, Sunday 20 June, at 1 p.m. in Brisbane Square (next to Treasury Casino), George Street, Brisbane.  For more information, contact Paul on 3392 3843 or

Other World Refugee Week activities in Brisbane include:

  • Candlelight Walk & Lantern Parade, celebrating the contribution of refugees and remembering those in refugee camps around the world, Friday 18 June, 5.30 p.m., Southbank Cultural Forecourt near Wheel of Brisbane, safe candles provided, concert to follow at Suncorp Piazza.
  • World Refugee Week Film Festival, Sunday 20 June, 6 p.m., Yungaba, 120 Main Street, Kangaroo Point, presented by the Romero Centre, BEMAC and the Australian World Refugee Film Festival, $25 ($15 concessions), enquiries and bookings to 3846 3250 or
  • World Refugee Week Festival, music, dance, art, workshops, sport and food, Annerley Soccer Club grounds, Ridge & Juliette Streets, Annerley, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Amnesty International is running an on-line petition directed at local MPs calling for an end to the Government’s freeze on the processing of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum claims and for an end to ‘an ugly game of politics with utter disregard to the cost of human suffering.’ The message of the petition is: ‘this is not how we treat vulnerable people in Australia. And as your constituents, we will not stand for it.’ Personalised emails directed to the individual’s particular electorate can be sent via the following Amnesty webpage: Amnesty

Commission Calls on Australia to Back Sri Lankan War Crimes Report

Monday 24 May 2010

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on the Australian Government to support the recommendations of the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) report on possible war crimes in the last year of the Sri Lankan civil war which ended a year ago.

The ICG report says there is compelling evidence to suggest the Sri Lankan military intentionally shelled civilians, hospitals and humanitarian operations and that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) intentionally shot civilians and caused them suffering.

It says that it has collected a compelling case to warrant an international inquiry into possible war crimes on both sides of the conflict.

The ICG has put together its report with the help of eyewitness reports, photographs, videos, satellite images, electronic communications and documentary evidence.

Apart from calling on the United Nations to undertake an international inquiry into possible war crimes during the last year of the conflict, the report makes recommendations for action to a number of countries including Australia.

Among these recommendations, the report calls for targeted sanctions such as the imposition of travel restrictions on Sri Lankan officials and their families.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the ICG report criticizes countries like Australia for turning a blind eye to the evidence of human rights violations during the conflict.

“It is important that those responsible for human rights violations be held accountable for their actions,” Mr Arndt said.

“Many governments like the Australian Government want to forget all about the dreadful things which were done both by the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers, but this is a grave injustice to the thousands of Tamil civilians who were killed and maimed in the conflict,” he said.

“There is no hope for political reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka if those responsible for these injustices are not held accountable for them,” he said.

“Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II often said there is ‘no peace without justice’,” he said.

“In a petition with over two thousand signatures which we submitted to the Senate last year, we called for a credible investigation into human rights violations in Sri Lanka and we continue to urge the Australian Government to support this,” he said.

”If we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must believe that the lives of the individual Tamil civilians who suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers mean something,” he said.

“They are the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters of human beings just like us and they deserve justice,” he said.

“We hope Catholics will read the ICG report and tell their local MP that they want Australia to take strong action for the sake of all those who have suffered in Sri Lanka,” 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.

Income Management

ImageThe Federal Government’s legislation to re-instate the Racial Discrimination Act and to extend income management measures beyond certain Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory were due to be voted on by the Senate on 12 May, but this vote has been delayed until the next sitting between 15 and 24 June.  The legislation has received much criticism from some Aboriginal, Church and community groups.You can find the report of the Senate Community Affairs Committee on the legislation, along with submissions and other documents, at senate committee report

You can also find critiques of the legislation from various sources at critique 1 and at critique 2 and at critique 3

You can find ways to take action on the legislation at What can I do?

Wage Justice

Wage Justice
ImageAustralia at the Crossroads: A Time to Set new Rules is the title of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council’s Pastoral letter for the Feast of St Joseph the Worker released on 1 May.  The pastoral letter considers the position of the most vulnerable Australians as the minimum wage and safety net wages decline.  For the full text of the letter, go to

Support UN Action on Racial Discrimination Act in NT

Concerned Australians are asking for signatures on a petition calling on the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to act to restore the full protection for Aboriginal people of the Racial Discrimination Act in Australia.

Background (Preamble):

Legislation currently before the Commonwealth Government includes plans to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act which was suspended when the Intervention was introduced into the Northern Territory in June, 2007.

However, this new Act will be a very restricted version to the one which was suspended in 2007. It will NOT have the powers to protect Aboriginal people from the consequences of so-called special measures.

For example, when the RDA was suspended, Aboriginal people had no means of appeal against compulsory acquisition of their land by government on 5-year leases. When this new Act is reinstated, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. There will be no legal avenue to address this issue, or any other issue related to the measures.

Regarding the 5-year leases, former High Court Justice, Michael Kirby, said, “if any other Australians, selected by reference to their race, suffered the imposition on their pre-existing property interests of non-consensual 5-year statutory leases…….it is difficult to believe that a challenge to such a law would fail….”

If this new legislation is implemented, the government will have again failed to keep its promise to Aboriginal people.

Calls to the Australian Government to reinstate an uncompromised Racial Discrimination Act have been ignored.

For Australia to be classified as a racist country is shameful for all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

If you wish to assist by conducting your own hard-copy petition, please indicate this in the comments column Thank you.

‘concerned Australians’

Download Concerned Australians flyer-petition

Online petition – An Unrestricted Racial Discrimination Act for the Northern Territory


This is What we Said

This is What we Said

“This Is What We Said”

Australian Aboriginal people give their views on the Northern Territory Intervention

“This Is What We Said” was launched in February 2010. Using pictures and quotations taken from footage of actual consultations at Bagot, Ampilatwatja, Utopia and Yirrkala, this book provides a graphic account of the depth of frustration and despair of many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory regarding the Intervention. It is therefore tragic that legislation, about to be debated in Parliament, pays scant attention to the views expressed by many Aboriginal people during the consultations process of 2009. Also included in “This Is What We Said” are quotes on the Intervention from other well known Australians and UN representatives.

The hard back book is available at A$15 + A$2 packaging and post, per copy, within Australia. Packaging & postage is free for orders of 4 or more copies. Please note for orders larger than 4 it is best to order in groups of 9.  e.g. 9, 18, 27 etc.

Download Purchase Order Form for “This Is What We Said”

Sea of Hands 2010

Sea of Hands
ImageNational Reconciliation Week is approaching!  Are you getting ready for this week, 27 may – 3 june?  Have you considered holding a Sea of Hands event as an expression of your parish’s, school’s or group’s commitment to reconciliation.  The Sea of Hands is a public art installation and you can borrow a Sea of Hands kit from Australians for native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) for the cost of a courier to transport a kit to you.  For more information about the Sea of Hands and how to obtain a kit, go to sea of hands

Commission Criticises Asylum Seeker Decision

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has expressed its concerns about the Federal Government’s decision to suspend processing of protection claims from Sri Lankan and Afghani asylum seekers.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the decision shows no respect or compassion for Sri Lankan and Afghani asylum seekers.

“This blanket suspension of processing claims from Sri Lankans and Afghanis does not treat people as human beings with personal stories and experiences but as bureaucratic categories devoid of any human dignity,” Mr Arndt said.

“Our fundamental concern in relation to the refugee policies of both the Government and the Opposition is whether they prioritise the dignity of individual human beings who seek asylum,” he said.

“We are concerned to see that compassion and respect for human dignity underpin their policies and decisions,” he said.

“For us, these ‘strangers’ who come to our shores seeking protection must be treated in the same way as we would treat Jesus himself if he arrived in a boat,” he said.

“Jesus told us that we must welcome strangers and, when we do so, we are welcoming him,” he said.

“These asylum seekers challenge us to be signs of God’s love in the midst of much fear and mean-spirited attitudes,” he said.

“The Government’s decision, besides being heartless and inhuman, simply makes no sense,” he said.

“It is unbelievable that the Government needs time to assess what it says are changing circumstances in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan,” he said.

“It is the job of Foreign Affairs staff in Canberra and embassy staff in these countries to keep abreast of developments in those countries and to keep the Government informed,” he said.

“There should be no need for us to wait for three to six months to conduct an assessment which should be available to the Government and constantly updated as a matter of course,” he said.

“In fact, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Smith, made a statement to Parliament about conditions in Sri Lanka only a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

“We do not need to wait for months for a re-assessment when he has detailed a long list of human rights concerns in Sri Lanka which the Australian Government is monitoring,” he said.

“It is incredible that the Government thinks things have improved in Sri Lanka when there are on-going reports of human rights abuses including ones which suggest that journalists and newspaper editors were arrested or intimidated during this month’s Parliamentary elections,” he said.

“It is just as extraordinary to hear that the Government thinks things may be better in Afghanistan when fighting is still going on there,” he said.

“The Opposition’s policies are just as concerning because they want harsher, tougher and more inhuman treatment of asylum seekers,” he said.

“We, once again, urge Christians to adopt attitudes to asylum seekers which show the same love and generous compassion which Christ showed,” 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 when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

Commission Urges Fairness and Compassion for Asylum Seekers


Wednesday 31 March 2010

 Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has urged Catholics to be voices for fairness and compassion for asylum seekers in the current debate over the treatment of asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that comments by politicians in both the Government and the Opposition and a recent front page article in the Sunday Mail have the effect of de-humanising asylum seekers and robbing them of their God-given dignity.

“We appeal to Catholics to defend the right of people to seek asylum in our country and to be treated as human beings and not as demons to be feared or as objects to be used for political or commercial benefit,” Mr Arndt said.

 “Both major parties are trying to show that they are tough with boat arrivals and they are causing a lot of suffering and unfairness for people seeking asylum,” he said.

 “All our politicians need to remember that Australia is a signatory to the international convention which recognises the right of people fleeing persecution and violence to seek asylum,” he said.

“We, as a  nation which says it respects and defends human rights, should not be trying to turn asylum seekers away or get other countries to hold them in unsatisfactory conditions,” he said.

“Whipping up fears that we are being over-run by asylum seekers is simply dishonest and leads to mis-treatment of people,” he said.

“We should remember that less than 25000 people have come by boat seeking asylum in Australia in more than 30 years,” he said.

“That is no flood and no reason to propose harsh and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers nor to create fear about boat arrivals,” he said.

 “We should also expect that the media should be responsible in covering the current asylum seeker debate,” he said.

 “The Sunday Mail’s recent front page story on asylum seekers being taken on a supervised shopping trip in Brisbane was regrettable,” he said.

 “The headline ‘They’re Here’ gives you the impression that the paper thinks we have something to fear,” he said.

 “People who seek asylum should have their claims for protection assessed and, if they prove to be legitimate, be recognised as refugees,” he said.

 “We should reject the attempts by fearmongers in politics and the media to foster resentment towards our fellow human beings,” he said.

 “As Christians, we see asylum seekers as our sisters and brothers,” he said.

 “It is our responsibility to defend their human dignity and to encourage our politicians and the community to treat them with compassion and fairness,” 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 when required.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.