Category Archives: Indigenous

Translate Desire for Communion with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples into Action

In May this year, members of the Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team and the Justice and Peace Commission joined with the Aboriginal Catholic community of Stradbroke Island to remember the establishment of the first Catholic Aboriginal mission in Australia and to renew the commitment of the Church of Brisbane to a deep and lasting bond with the first peoples of this land.

At that special celebration, Archbishop Coleridge told us that the desire for a deep bond of communion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not die with the failure of the mission on Stradbroke Island. This desire remains strong within the Church today.

He also told us that the Church is committed to honouring the dignity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by seeking to empower them to shape their own future.

The Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team and Justice and Peace Commission embrace the Archbishop’s words with great passion and joy and urge parishes, schools and agencies around the Archdiocese to also embrace his words wholeheartedly and turn them into action.

At the 2011 Census, there were 12,935 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. There are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics living in every parish. In some, there is only a handful. In many, there are dozens and even hundreds. Yet, we know that very few come to parishes for the celebration of the Eucharist each Sunday.

We acknowledge the many efforts in parishes, schools and agencies over many years to reach out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We encourage these efforts to continue and to grow.

We encourage every parish, school and agency to not only strive to be a community of welcome and hospitality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but to also go out into the community to meet and dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples where they live.

We also encourage parishes, schools and agencies to make efforts to develop a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and spirituality. More opportunities for cross-cultural training and education are needed to enable this to happen.

On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we also urge parishes, schools and agencies to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their struggle for dignity and empowerment. In this regard, we especially recommend that efforts be made to learn about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A commitment to understand their relationship with the land and the sea, their experience of racism and their struggle against disadvantage and inequity will strengthen and deepen the bonds of communion to which the God of love constantly invites us.

This commitment requires more than an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday. It needs a concerted effort every day of every year. Building trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is not easy. Years of humiliation and hurt have created significant barriers between us. Nevertheless, this is a task which is part and parcel of the mission of the Church in our place and time. We invite all Catholics to embrace this task, not as a burden, but as a wonderful gift from God.

This statement is issued by the Commission with the support of the Murri Ministry Team. For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

Respect and Understanding Needed on Tent Embassy

Thursday 28 June 2012

Aboriginal Tent Embassy Brisbane

Aboriginal Tent Embassy Brisbane

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane, along with its Aboriginal partners and advisors, welcomes the recent dropping of police charges against a number of people who came to support local Aboriginal people and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in May.

 It is our hope that charges against others arrested by police will also be dropped.

We do not want to see the ugly confrontation between police, the Brisbane City Council, Aboriginal people and their supporters, which occurred on 16 May at Musgrave Park, repeated.

The sight of over 200 police officers surrounding Aboriginal people at the Tent Embassy at Musgrave Park was a sorry reminder to Aboriginal people of the troubled and difficult relations they have experienced with the police in this State over many years.

The indignity of being evicted by force by police at the request of Council authorities from land with which they have a long and deep connection was also a sorry reminder of their dispossession and all its negative consequences.

We welcome the conciliatory and respectful approaches and dialogue which have taken place between the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Brisbane City Council officers and elders and representatives of the local Aboriginal communities since the confrontation.  It is hoped that this constructive approach will achieve positive outcomes for both the first peoples of this land and for the municipal authorities.

We implore both the State Government and the Queensland Police to follow the Council’s lead so that respectful and productive relationships can be established and cooperative partnerships can be formed to address the problems that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face across Queensland.

As we approachAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday on 1 July and NAIDOC Week (July 1 – 8), we acknowledge efforts by Church agencies, parishes and schools to develop relationships with local Aboriginal people.  We encourage them to maintain and increase such efforts.

In particular, we encourage Catholics and people in the wider community to learn more about the history of Aboriginal peoples’ connection with Musgrave Park in South Brisbane and with other significant sites around south-east Queensland.

We also urge Catholics to learn more about the significance of the first Aboriginal Tent Embassy which was established in Canberra forty years ago and to walk with them on their on-going struggle for justice.

Finally, we wish to acknowledge the significant contribution of Aboriginal church workers and Aboriginal Christians who have worked tirelessly to support their sisters and brothers in the Tent Embassy in Musgrave Park since its establishment and for their long standing efforts to ensure that their people are afforded dignity in many difficult situations over many years.  These humble and faithful people are extraordinary witnesses to God’s abundant mercy and love.  May God continue to bless their work and inspire others to join them in their efforts to build a civilisation of love in Jesus’ name.

For further information and comment, please contact Peter Arndt (Catholic Justice & Peace Commission) on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476 or Ravina Waldren (Murri Ministry) on (07) 3891 5911 or 0408 707 101.

 This statement is issued by the Commission under the provisions of its mandate which enable it to speak in its own right and has been authorised by the Commission’s Executive and its Aboriginal advisors before release. 

Deaths in Custody Campaign Launched

Sunday 2 October 2011

Memorial Candle at Launch of Campaign

Memorial Candle at Launch of Campaign

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission and the Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team joined together to launch a campaign to get Government action to address on-going Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody.

The campaign was launched last Wednesday evening at Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, on the anniversary of the death in custody of a 16 year old Aboriginal youth, John Pat, in 1983.

John Pat was punched and kicked by off-duty police officers when he tried to help another Aboriginal man who was involved in a fight with the police officers outside a hotel in Roeburn, Western Australia.

Pat died as a result of his injuries.  Charges were laid against the police involved, but none was convicted.

John Pat’s death was one of 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody investigated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody which delivered its final report to the Federal Government twenty years ago this April.

The event was chaired by the Director of Brisbane Murri Watch, Mr Ken Georgetown, and prominent elders, Aunty Alex Gater and Aunty Jean Phillips, led prayers during the launch.

Candles were lit to remember John Pat and all the other Indigenous people who have died in paddy wagons, watch houses and jails throughout Australia.

The Coordinator of the Murri Ministry Team, Ms Ravina Waldren, said she had a heavy heart as she remembered the many Aboriginal people who have died in custody over the years.

“I feel deep pain knowing that my people keep dying in custody,” Ms Waldren said.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that Governments must take action to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission if Aboriginal deaths in custody are to stop.

“The Royal Commission made 339 recommendations, but most of them have not been implemented,” Mr Arndt said.

“Since the Royal Commission handed down its report, there have been almost four hundred more black deaths in custody,” he said.

“The fact that the rate of Indigenous imprisonment continues to rise is a major contributing factor,” he said.

The campaign is supported by many Indigenous and community organisations.

Its objectives include:

A full audit of the implemantation of the Royal Commision’s recommendations and all deaths in custody in the last twenty years

  • Inclusion of justice as one of the key indicators which are targeted for improvement by the Council of Australian Governments;
  • The establishment of a fully funded national Deaths in Custody Watch Committee;
  • The establishment of a Royal Commission into the death in custody of Mulrunje on Palm Island in 2004 and all subsequent actions by the Queensland Government, police and other authorities involved in dealing with the case.

The campaign organisers are arranging a number of other events this year including a prayer vigil on 7 November, the anniversary of the death of young Brisbane Aboriginal man, Daniel Yock, and a rally and march on 19 November, the anniversary of the death of Mulrunje on Palm Island.

“It is high time that things changed for the better and we will keep going with our campaign to ensure that Governments listen and take action,” Ms Waldren said.

An initial information sheet has been produced and will be available on the Commission’s blog at Queensland Churches Together Indigenous Peoples Partnership will also distribute it to congregations and parishes in all member churches throughout the State.

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.
Media Release Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Campaign 2011

Deaths in Custody launch fact sheet

Statement on Aboriginal Rights by Leading Australians.

A Call to the People of Australia from Indigenous Elders


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.


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

3Medical Journal of Australia August 2010

4Growing Them Strong, Together Report page 17

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.

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