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Uniting Church leaders condemn Indigenous intervention process

Chairperson of the Aboriginal Resources and Development Services Inc. Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra. Photo courtesy of ARDS

UNITING CHURCH President Rev Gregor Henderson, and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress National Administrator Rev Shayne Blackman have jointly expressed concern about legislation relating to the Northern Territory Indigenous intervention.

“The Uniting Church stands with its Indigenous leaders in expressing our alarm at the way this legislation has evolved,” said Mr Henderson.

“This is some of the most significant legislation in the history of our nation, over-riding aspects of the Race Discrimination and Native Title acts.

“It is with disbelief that we note that it merited only a one-day Senate hearing, which did not consult with some of the key stakeholders in the plan.

“Agencies and members of the Uniting Church who work and live in remote communities that will be affected by these changes have expressed their dismay at the way this process has been undertaken, and are fearful of the possible consequences of legislation on the permit system and land tenure,” said Mr Henderson.

Mr Blackman said the process showed a fundamental lack of respect for the Indigenous people most affected by the changes.

“This legislation has been underpinned by ferocious and hasty so called reforms laced with military style coercion,” said Mr Blackman.

“It has not been fully negotiated with those Northern Territory communities in a manner and timeframe that will enable all stakeholders in this issue to be in a position to support these new laws in any cohesive fashion.

“The Government has chosen to pursue populist policies and temporary solutions which will further push Indigenous rights and responsibilities to the fringes.

“This is not the act of a Government that respects and values the Indigenous people of Australia.

“What is needed are long term empowering programs that enable people to take ownership of these changes over the long haul so that any positive developments are sustained and are undergirded by individual responsibility.

“The child abuse crisis is just one of a series of symptomatic societal crises in Indigenous communities resulting from a legacy of failed policies.

“These problems need long-term, sustainable, fully-costed solutions, and must be backed up by political will and commitment to the long haul.”

Both Church leaders urgently called on the Government to re-evaluate its strategy.

“We call upon the Government to institute a substantial plan for consultation and fairly evaluate the plan on its merits, according to the outcomes it will produce for Indigenous communities and people and in consultation with them”, said Rev Henderson.

While applauding the initiative to kerb the “rivers of white fella grog” and deal with issues of violence in Aboriginal communities, Uniting Church Minister and Chairperson of the Aboriginal Resources and Development Services Inc. (ARDS) Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, has been critical of the removal of the permit system.

Dr Gondarra believes Minister for Indigenous Affairs Mal Brough and the Prime Minister are misleading the public when they say that the permit system on Aboriginal communities has been used to lock out the media and allow the abuse of Aboriginal children to continue.

“To our knowledge, the permit system has not been used in this way.

“The only time that we know that the media has been denied entry to an Aboriginal community is when Aboriginal people have wanted to hold a private funeral.

“It seems that the rich and privileged in this world can deny access to the paparazzi but Aboriginal people are not allowed the same privilege.

“Permission is required to visit John Howard at the Lodge or Kirribilli.”

Dr Gondarra called for policies that will empower people instead of turning their lives into “bigger nightmares” than they are.

“Sadly one must ask is the Little Children are Sacred Report and the violence now seen in some Aboriginal communities being used as a ‘trojan horse’ to take away private protection and property rights – rights that Aboriginal people have had to fight for over many decades.

“If so then we can only hang our heads in shame that any violence against children could be used to political advantage against Aboriginal communities in this way.

“How bad is European law when it does not protect private property rights?

“According to our Madayin law nobody can just take someone else’s private property like the federal government is doing in the Northern Territory.

“We are pleading for the permit system to stay over the access roads and Aboriginal communities so that they can feel safe and be safe in their home communities.”

Photo : Chairperson of the Aboriginal Resources and Development Services Inc. Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra. Photo courtesy of ARDS