10 December 2008
Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called for both the Federal and Queensland Governments to take action on the rights of Indigenous Australians.
In particular, it has called on the Federal Government to become a signatory to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and for the Queensland Government to act on the concerns of Indigenous people about the use of money from its “Stolen Wages” reparations Scheme and the Aboriginal Welfare Fund.
The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was of the highest priority to the Commission.
“On International Human Rights Day, the Commission wants to express its solidarity with Indigenous people who are still waiting for justice,” Mr Arndt said.
“After speaking with our Indigenous advisors, we urge the Federal Government to act quickly to become a signatory to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” he said.
“The Prime Minister promised to do this at last year’s election, but the Government has not done so yet,” he said.
“The Government was given an opportunity to show its support for the Declaration in the Senate in September, but did not do so,” he said.
“Our Indigenous advisors have also told us that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are very upset with the Queensland Government’s unwillingness to listen to them on the Stolen Wages issue,” he said.
“The great majority of Indigenous people consulted by the Government wanted it to use unclaimed funds in its reparations scheme to pay more money to Indigenous workers who had wages taken away from them and never given back,” he said.
“They do not want any of the money from the reparations scheme or the Aboriginal Welfare Fund being used to establish an education fund, but the Government has ignored them,” he said.
“Aboriginal workers have a right to be paid their wages in full,” he said.
“Every Indigenous child also has a right to get a decent education funded by the Government and not just a select few who get a scholarship funded out of Indigenous workers’ wages,” he said.
“The Government should not be taking money from funds put aside to pay Indigenous people what they are owed in wages and using it for other purposes,” he said.
“There is a lot of anger and hurt within Indigenous communities over this issue and the Government must listen,” 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 Charter 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.