Category Archives: Social Teachings

Australian Government Urged to Engage with Sri Lanka on Human Rights

Monday 12 November 2012

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has urged the Australian Government to accept the recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee that it seek to establish a human rights dialogue with Sri Lanka.

The Commission made a submission last year to an inquiry into human rights dialogues with China and Vietnam and its Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, appeared earlier this year before a public hearing conducted by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, along with Pax Christi Queensland Coordinator, Fr Pan Jordan.

Mr Arndt said that the primary concern of its Submission to the inquiry was to encourage the expansion of the Australian Government’s human rights dialogues program with the Governments of China and Vietnam to include a dialogue with Sri Lanka.

“We began to express our concerns about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka at the height of the civil war in 2008 and 2009 and we continue to be concerned about what is happening there since the war ended in May 2009,” Mr Arndt said.

“The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution in March this year calling for action by the Sri Lankan Government to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as there was little action to address the grave concerns about human rights violations committed during the war,” he said.

“Sri Lanka’s human rights record came under scrutiny again this month when it was examined as part of a routine four-yearly Universal Periodic Review conducted by the UN Human Rights Council,” he said.

“Major human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group continue to raise their concerns about on-going extra-judicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances and the lack of judicial independence and media freedom,” he said.

“On the same day as the UN review of Sri Lanka’s human rights record commenced, the Sri Lankan Government introduced legislation into the Parliament to impeach the country’s Chief Justice,” he said.

Mr Arndt said that recent reports from Church bodies such as the Justice and Peace Commission in the Diocese of Jaffna in the north of Sri Lanka and discussions he has had with senior Church officials in Sri Lanka suggest that there has been no improvement particularly for the Tamil people in their homelands since the war ended,” he said.

“The military is still present in large numbers in the north and the east and they are a highly intimidating presence,” he said.

“One Church leader I spoke to said that he was safe as long as he did not speak out about the poor treatment of his people by the military and the Government,” Mr Arndt said.

“He clearly have good reason to fear reprisals if he complains or criticises the Government,” he said.

Bishop Rayappu Joseph of Manna has been threatened repeatedly by Government Ministers for speaking out about human rights concerns in his diocese and a judge who complained recently about executive interference in the courts was assaulted,” he said.

“We have worked with other organisations in the local Sri Lanka Justice Forum to pressure the Government to implement the recommendation to seek a human rights dialogue with Sri Lanka,” he said.

“Australia cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening in a neighbouring country because we want their cooperation to stem the flow of asylum seekers,” he said.

“Indeed, one of the reasons why Sri Lankans are fleeing the country is that they continue to face serious repression and human rights abuses,” he said.

“We are grateful to local MPs and Senators who have taken our concerns to the Government and will continue to work with them to bring about improvements in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka,” he added.

For further information and comment, please contact Peter Arndt (Executive Officer, Catholic Justice & Peace Commission) on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

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.

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. 

Commission to Screen Queensland Documentary on World Environment Day


Friday 1 June 2012

 

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission will host a World Environment Day screening of a documentary film depicting the struggle of Central Queensland communities against coal and gas extraction in their region.

Directed by US-based filmmaker Michael O’Connell, the film, Bimblebox, follows the story of Paola Cassoni, a resident of Alpha, Queensland, and co-owner of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge.

Bimblebox Nature Refuge is an 8000 ha property north of Alpha and directly in the path of the proposed ‘China First’ coal mine, an operation that, if given the go ahead, will be the world’s largest coal mine.

The documentary features interviews with leading academics, scientists, and former miners, as well as members of the communities impacted by mining. , It builds a picture of the broader implications of Australia’s mining boom, while focussing on one woman’s fight to protect the land she loves.

“This documentary was born out of the necessity” Ms Cassoni said, “to let the broader public know that our bush, our communities, our farms and our waters are going through a radical transformation.”

“It shows the daily battles and frustrations of ordinary people in dealing with both mining corporations and indifferent Governments,” she said.

It’s more than a hint that we need a new direction in energy consumption both at home and globally,” she added.

Mr O’Connell is an experienced environmental documentary film maker, having previously made Mountain Top Removal, a documentary which focussed on the issue of coal mining in the US region of Appalachia and received numerous awards including the ‘Reel Current’ award, presented by Al Gore, at the Nashville Film Festival.

“After making my film Mountain Top Removal I wanted to look at the global issue of mining and also explore the alternatives to fossil fuels.  Australia was a perfect place to do that,” Mr O’Connell said.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the Commission was keen to promote the broadest possible discussion of the issues surrounding coal mining and gas extraction in Queensland.

“This film gives us the chance to hear the views and feelings of people living in the central west of Queensland whose lives and lands will be directly affected by very large mining developments,” Mr Arndt said.

“Christians have a responsibility to care for the earth and to defend the human dignity of all people now and in the future,” he said.

“It is not only the very powerful voices of Government Ministers and mining company executives which must be heard, but also those of graziers, workers and families living in areas affected by the decisions and actions of government and business,” he said.

Bimblebox will screen at the Aspinall Centre, St Bernard’s Parish, Klumpp Road, Upper Mt Gravatt, at 7 p.m. on World Environment Day, Tuesday 5 June.

A panel of speakers will discuss the film after its screening and light refreshments will be served.

Donations to help cover costs will be gratefully accepted.  Bookings to help with catering may be made by e-mailing em.fl@bne.catholic.net.au or by phoning Sandi on 3336 9174.

Government Must Challenge Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Record in Talks


Friday 4 May 2012

 

The Australian Government must raise the issue of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka in talks currently taking place between the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, and the Sri Lankan Government, according to Executive Officer of Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Peter Arndt.

The Immigration Minister has spent the last three days in Sri Lanka in order to discuss on-going cooperation to counter people smuggling.

Mr Arndt said that Mr Bowen should not turn a blind eye in his discussions to reports of on-going abuses of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority by the military.

“We are very concerned about reports that some Tamil asylum seekers whose claims for protection have failed were deported to Sri Lanka and subsequently subjected to rape, beatings and torture,” Mr Arndt said.

“A Human Rights Watch investigation shows at least eight Tamil asylum seekers were deported to Sri Lanka by the British Government and were abused by the Sri Lankan military in various ways,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government has thumbed its nose at the international community with its refusal to implement recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission,” he said.

“The UN Human Rights Council has called on the Sri Lankan Government to implement the Commission’s recommendations to deal with the injustices and abuses committed during Sri Lanka’s brutal and long-running civil war, but theSri Lankan Government refuses to do the right thing,” he said.

“There is still a massive military presence in the traditional homelands of the Tamil minority in the north and east and there are still reports of military violence and abuses of the Tamil people in the area,” he said.

“The Australian Government knows the Sri Lankan Government has questions to answer about human rights abuses committed during the civil war and that significant human rights concerns still exist in Sri Lanka,” he said.

“Australia cannot ignore these matters when it is talking to the Sri Lankan Government about stopping more Tamils coming to Australia and seeking asylum,” he said.

“Tamils and other minorities in Sri Lanka will stop fleeing their country when they can live in their own lands free from fear and oppression,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government will not get the message about human rights abuses if Australia keeps dealing with them as if it is business as usual,” he said.

“Australia cannot send Tamils back to Sri Lanka if it knows there is a strong possibility that they will be subjected to violence,” 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.

Commission Calls for Carr to Change Tack on West Papua


Tuesday 13 March 2012

 

West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane.

West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane.

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on the new Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, to change the direction of Australia’s approach to conflict in the Indonesian provinces of West Papua.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the militarisation of West Papua had led to great problems in the region which is situated on the western half of the island of New Guinea.

“The indigenous Melanesian people of West Papua have never accepted the Indonesian takeover of West Papua in the 1960s,” Mr Arndt said.

“While there has been a small armed independence group in West Papua, nonviolent, peaceful groups challenging Indonesian rule and the abuses of security forces have grown in recent years,” he said.

“Despite their commitment to peaceful action, Indonesian security forces respond with brutal tactics to keep a lid on their activities,” he said.

“The Indonesian Minister for Law and Human Rights recently said there were no political prisoners in Indonesia, but many Papuans are in prison for peaceful political actions like raising the Papuan flag,” he said.

“There are five Papuan leaders currently on trial for treason after they made a declaration of independence at a large Papuan gathering last October,” he said.

“The brutal attack on that gathering of unarmed, peaceful people is unfortunately all too common in West Papua,” he said.

“We hope that the appointment of Mr Carr as Foreign Affairs Minister will give our country a chance to take a stronger stand on military brutality and intimidation in the region,” he said.

“We also hope Mr Carr can encourage the Indonesian Government to sit down with all political groups in West Papua and find a way to end a conflict which has lasted fifty years,” he said.

“Australia cannot continue to hope this problem will go away,” he said.

“Ordinary citizens, human rights defenders and peaceful political activists have been subjected to many human rights violations and Australia must do its part to help end this concerning situation,” he said.

“There needs to be a new way found to end the violence and bring about peace in West Papua,” he said.

“This problem on our doorstep will continue to simmer and worsen unless we can encourage Indonesia to take Papuan hopes and concerns seriously,” he said.

The Commission helps to facilitate a local solidarity group, the West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane.  On this Friday 16 March at Anzac Square, 4.30 – 5.30 p.m., the Group will hold a public demonstration in support of the five Papuans on trial and of human rights in West Papua.

The group will also send a message of support to the five Papuans before the end of this week when, it is believed, their trial will conclude.  It is currently collecting signatures from supporters before sending the message.

Mr Arndt said the Commission will continue to support the group’s efforts to lobby the Australian Government on human rights in West Papua.

The Statement of the Indonesian Bishop’s Conference on Papua

Monday, 21 November 2011, 1:47 pm
Press Release: Indonesian Bishop’s Conference on Papua

Annual meetings of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, 07-17 November 2011

The Statement of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference on Papua: Stop Violence! Let Us Hold A Dialogue!

Violence in Papua continues to occur despite the fact that many parties have repeatedly called for resorting to peaceful means to solve Papua issues. People’s welfare can only be achieved if there is a peaceful atmosphere that allows all elements of a society work together peacefully. Violent ways are unlikely to solve so many social problems. Violence contra violence only gives birth to new violence and thus increases problems. It can be worse whenever public views and political statements expressed by the Papuans in a peaceful and transparent manner are again met with gunfire, arbitrary arrest, torture and killings. Herewith, we, the Indonesian bishops’ conference, express our deepest concerns and condemn violence acts that ostensibly do not promote human dignity and derogate the right to life, a God’s gift to every human being.

 

Violence and human rights abuses against the Papuans constitute a long story and history. The Papuan laments stemming from the history of mistreatment cannot be appeased or silenced merely with government statements and ad hoc government policies. The central government has to show the courage to change its attitude and to take a new approach and a new solution that specifically deals with the interests and the welfare of the Papuans. While reiterating its concerns and solidarity with all victims, the KWI conveys our appeals to the central government:

  • We encourage the central government to hold dialogue with the Papuans. President Yudhoyono’s commitment to solve Papua’s problems publicly expressed earlier during his presidential term needs to be realised. The method should be a way of dialogue. Impressive statements such as “to develop Papua with heart” should begin with a dialogue by heart. With an open heart, without any stigma, the government should listen to the Papuans’ laments and their history of suffering they have experienced since the integration with Indonesia.
  • To implement a constructive dialogue with the Papuans, we encourage the government to facilitate meetings among various elements of the Papuan society including the local government, the local parliament and the Papuan People Council (MRP) in order to accommodate their aspirations in regard to the means and substance of a dialogue.
  • Groups that have fought for Papua independence, either the OPM or any other names, either reside inside Indonesia or overseas, have to have a privilege in the 2 K 11 – 5 STOP VIOLENCE AND LET US HOLD A DIALOGUE!– Annual meetings of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, 07-17 November 2011 2 dialogue. To ensure that dialogue will be carried out in a dignified, fair, truthful and respectful, a trusted third party should be established to act as a mediator.
  • In regard to all forms of human rights abuses from which the Papuans suffer, the government has to uphold justice, offers an apology, recompenses and restores the rights of the Papuans.
  • The Special Autonomy Law is meant to provide protection and affirmative actions for the Papuans in developing their welfare. Yet many aspects have not been implemented. Due to the high cash flow in Papua, the spontaneous transmigrants continue to overwhelm Papua. In many aspects of the daily life, the Papuans have been marginalised by these transmigrants. We encourage the government to revisit the demography policy and to focus on developing local human resources to fill the existing employment.
  • The figures and types of the security forces deployed in Papua are far too many. They do not have programs to positively kill time and to benefit the locals. Their attitude and behaviour more frequently cause them an enemy of the local community rather than a provider for safety and security for them. We encourage the government to reduce the number of the Indonesian military and only deploy those who are mature enough and able to become part of the local community so that they genuinely become protection and safety for the people.

These are our appeals. Whilst we hope that the government will pay attention to our concerns, we express our strongest support to the inter-faith leaders and all parties who work for Papua Land of Peace. Jakarta, 17 November 2011

The Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, Msgr. Martinus D. Situmorang, OFM Cap Chairman Msgr. Johannes Pujasumarta Secretary General

This is an unofficial translation.

 For media contact: Father Benny Susetyo, mobile: +62-812-3542 153

Australia Should Challenge Military Violence in West Papua

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged the Australian Government to take a stronger stand on killings and violence by Indonesian security forces in West Papua.

This follows a number of recent incidents in which Indonesian soldiers killed, injured and arrested Papuans who were engaged in peaceful political demonstrations and industrial action.

On October 10, around 8000 workers from the Freeport Mine were at a public meeting in the town of Timika. This was part of their continuing industrial action seeking a pay increase from US$1.50 to $12.50 an hour.

Security forces fired on a group of workers while they were listening to speeches and, as a result, one of the workers, Petrus Ayamsemba was killed and several others were injured and taken to hospital.

It is also alleged that security violence at the Third Papuan People’s Congress in Abepura on 19 October led to the deaths of at least six people and injury to many others.

It is believed that, during the Congress, a declaration of independence was made and Forkorus Yaboisembut was named as President and Edison Waromi as Prime Minister of the Federated State of West Papua.

Indonesian authorities have seen the actions taken by Papuan people at the Congress as an act of subversion and a number of people have been arrested.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the use of violence and lethal force by Indonesian security forces to deal with peaceful protesters is a matter of grave concern.

“It is our understanding that both the Freeport workers’ industrial action and the Congress were conducted in a peaceful, nonviolent manner,” Mr Arndt said.

“It is immensely disturbing that workers who peacefully demonstrate about their poor wages should be shot at and killed or injured,” he said.

“While the Indonesian Government may have seen the aims of the political protest at Abepura and participants’ actions as provocative, it is appalling that peaceful protesters should be killed, injured and beaten,” he said.

“We work with people who are in regular contact with Papuans who tell them that violence against citizens in West Papua is a frequent occurrence,” he said.

“I have written to the Australian Government on several occasions this year and to each Queensland Senator and Federal MP in South-East Queensland to express concerns about on-going military violence in West Papua,” he said.

“I have pointed out that there is military cooperation between Australia and Indonesia and that, as a military partner, we should be taking a stronger stand on reports of frequent abuses by Indonesian security forces,” he said.

“While the Australian Government appears to have challenged Indonesian authorities over one specific incident of torture by Indonesian soldiers caught on video last year, it does not appear that it is vigorously and substantially challenging the widespread and prolonged violent abuse of the human rights of citizens in West Papua,” he said.

“Australia and Indonesia are good friends,” he said.

“As a friend and military partner, Australia should be able to express our concerns much more strongly about the way Indonesia’s army and police treat people in West Papua,” he said.

“The Commission will continue to press the Government, local MPs and Senators on this atrocious behaviour,” 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

Commission Joins in Call for Tough Action on Sri Lanka

Monday 3 October 2011

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission joined in a call for the Commonwealth of Nations to take tough action against Sri Lanka unless it agrees to an independent investigation into war crimes and human rights violations committed during the civil war which ended in 2009.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, recently attended a Parliament House round table in Canberra with representatives from the Australian Tamil community, the International Commission of Jurists, the University of Sydney and the Australian Greens where the call for action against Sri Lanka was made.  The call was made in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which will take place in Perth in a few weeks.

Participants at the round table discussed the Sri Lankan Government’s refusal to accept the findings and recommendations of an independent expert panel appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and evidence of the Government’s on-going failure to respect the human rights of Tamil people.

Mr Arndt joined with the other participants in calling for the Federal Government and the Opposition to:

 

  • Support calls for the suspension of Sri Lanka from the Councils of the Commonwealth until the Government of Sri Lanka agrees to an international independent investigation into war crimes, restoration of human rights and the rule of law and implementation of all the recommendations of the UN expert panel report on war crimes in Sri Lanka
  • Oppose Sri Lanka hosting CHOGM in 2013.

 The  participants also called on Prime Minister Gillard to join Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, in saying she would not go to CHOGM in Sri Lanka in 2013 unless there is progress in Sri Lanka’s human rights record and in the establishment of an independent war crimes investigation.

MrArndt said that the Sri Lankan Government has shown no commitment to respecting the human rights of Tamils since the end of the civil war in 2009.

“The Sri Lankan Government established its own Commission after the war but has ignored its interim recommendations,” Mr Arndt said.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommended over a year ago that the Government should release the names of those it has in detention, expedite the charging or discharging of detainees, disarm illegal militias in Tamil areas and make a clear policy statement about acquisition of land in Tamil areas,” he said.

“None of these recommendations have been acted on in whole or in part,” he said.

“It has told both Tamil Parliamentarians and foreign government representatives that it has published a list of detainees, but no-one can find it,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government is not only treating the Tamil people dreadfully, but it insults other nations with its false claims,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government recently ended its State of Emergency in order to give the impression that things are returning to normal, but it used its Prevention of Terrorism Act to promptly re-introduce extraordinary regulations which applied under the State of Emergency,” he said.

“When we also hear that security forces are doing appalling things like assaulting Tamil MPs at public meetings, we cannot accept that the Sri Lankan Government has any respect for human rights or the rule of law,” he said.

“The BBC’s documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields showed how dreadfully both the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tigers behaved during the war,” he said.

“The BBC has also released interviews with Sri Lankan military officials who said they were told to mutilate, rape and kill Tamil civilians,” he said.

“The Sri Lankan Government must be held accountable for its actions,” he said.

“It is an obscene joke on the part of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia to tell Australian MPs that Tamil injury and death was accidental and ‘collateral damage’” he said.

“Australia must take a strong stand on Sri Lanka’s human rights record at CHOGM and we will continue to advocate this approach vigorously,” he said.

“As the theme of the CHOGM in Perth this year is human rights, it is imperative that Australia and the other Commonwealth countries tell the Government of Sri Lanka that its behaviour has been appalling,” he said.

“At the same time, in fairness, we believe that Australia’s human rights record in relation to asylum seekers and Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory should be fully scrutinised,” he added.

Participants at the round table were:

The Hon John Dowd AO QC (President of the International Commission of Jurists Australia)

Dr Sam Pari (Australian Tamil Congress)

Associate Professor Jake Lynch (Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Sydney University)

Dr Ben Saul (Professor of International Law and Director of the Sydney Centre for International Law at Sydney University)

Peter Arndt (Executive Officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Brisbane)

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon.

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.

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 http://cjpcbrisbane.wordpress.com/ 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