Home' Aurora : Aurora September 2012 Contents 15
www.mn.catholic.org.au Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
WE DO NOT deny the seriousness
of the problems facing many
Aboriginal communities or the
benefits to those communities of some
aspects of the legislation. The issue is
the lack of genuine consultation and
the imposition of policies that were not
developed in partnership with those who
would be most affected by them."
The laws have been widely opposed by
Northern Territory Indigenous communities.
On 27 June 2012, Yolngu Nations
Assembly and the Alyawaar Nation issued
the following statement:
Should this Stronger Futures legislation
pass through the Senate and become law, it
will be a day of mourning for all Aboriginal
peoples. This legislation will be the cause of
great suffering in our hearts.
For those of us living in the Northern
Territory the anguish of the past five years
of Intervention has been almost unbearable.
Many have simply given up hope. We have
been burying people who can no longer live
with the pain and despair.
We had believed that we were moving to a
time of security, where we would no longer
live from day to day in a state of fear but
would be supported to find our own destiny
in the security of our law and our culture. We
little expected to be thrown into such turmoil
by a Government determined to remove
from us control over everything that
we most value.
Money alone can never be the
answer. Government has never
understood and still fails to
understand, that badly needed
funds must be accompanied by the
willingness to allow us to determine the
direction of our lives. There must be respect
and genuine partnership, not the top-down
approach which undermines and devalues
us as a people.
How is it that so many from across Australia --
from small organisations, from churches and
national institutions - understand the value
and importance of our people determining
their own futures, whereas Government
If this legislation should pass the senate,
one thing that Government needs to know is
that Aboriginal people will fight. We will never
accept this racist legislation that separates
us from other Australians and creates its
own Apartheid in our country. Furthermore,
those thousands of people who have given
us their statements of support will be with
us. We will fight together for real justice.
Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory
will never give up their rights -- their right to
live in true safety with the certainty that their
culture and their language and their law will
be protected and respected, as it is under
international law under conventions to which
Australia is a signatory.
We put the Government on notice. Do not
pass this racist legislation.
Some aspects of the Government's
announcement that it will maintain
investment in the Northern Territory are
encouraging, particularly strategies to
generate local jobs.
The strong message from Indigenous
communities in the Northern Territory
is that people want reliable services,
schools and jobs in their own communities,
but do not want simplistic policies and
There is a general view coming through
the submissions made regarding the
legislation and other comments
that there has been inadequate
consultation and there is a
lack of transparency. The
Government has not consulted
properly with the communities
most affected by these measures.
The lack of process and the legislation
itself imply that the opinions of Aboriginal
people do not matter. Their right to self-
determination of their future is being
replaced by an expediency that promises
neither a just outcome nor a fair one.
The Report from the Senate Committee
was due on 13 March, but on Monday
27 February, while the focus was on the
leadership question, the legislation was
passed in the Lower House. This action
pre-empted the Senate Committee Report.
Under the new legislation, there are no
protections for Aboriginal identity, culture or
language and many Indigenous people
are expressing real concerns
their culture will suffer with
many of their languages lost
forever. Another ten years
means an entire generation
can go through school without
being taught or speaking their
own language and celebrating their
The legislation proposes extension of a
program that withdraws social security
payments from parents whose children do
not attend school regularly.
In the 'Stronger Futures' consultations,
community members suggested
introducing Aboriginal culture into the
curriculum, involving elders and parents
more in school activities, developing
mentoring programs for parents, and doing
more to attract and retain good teachers.
This fits with what the research shows
works. Aboriginal communities and peak
organisations have also been calling for the
reinstatement of bilingual learning for the
same reason -- because it works.
The Australian Council of Social Service
(ACOSS) research estimates that the
average cost of School Enrolment and
Attendance Measure (SEAM) is $200,000
per school, which could be spent on
intensive case management for families
whose children do not regularly attend
school. The Northern Territory National
Emergency Response evaluation by the
Government said that linking of income
support payments to school attendance did
not improve attendance.
There is concern that the Land Councils
are being used by the Government for its
purposes rather than for the reasons they
UN Human Rights Commissioner,
Navanethem Pillay, has expressed
fears that the continuation of a Federal
Government intervention program in
Northern Territory Aboriginal communities
will not benefit Indigenous people.
A letter of 28 March obtained by AAP under
freedom of information laws, from UN
Commissioner Navanethem Pillay to
Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny
Macklin, reflects her concerns.
Ms Pillay said the government's
consultation process for
the legislation "may not have
been sufficient to elicit meaningful
participation of Indigenous communities in
the review and devising of new legislation.
"Without the genuine participation and
support of Indigenous communities...the
measures contained in the legislation may
not achieve their full potential to improve
the lives of Indigenous peoples in Australia,"
Ms Pillay said laws aimed at improving the
lot of Indigenous people should encourage
communities to "take control of decision-
making about their own development goals".
She urged the government to commission
additional studies and provide credible
evidence to justify education, alcohol
management and compulsory income
The Year of Grace has been declared as
a time "to heal relationships, deepen
our unity and forge a future full of life in
Jesus Christ". It is in this spirit of the Year
of Grace that we need to be engaging
with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples and ensuring that all Australians
are treated with dignity and respect.
Perhaps Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-
Baumann's words to the people of Australia
could be a metaphor of the invitation and
the attitude to have on this journey towards
reconciliation and justice?
Wait for us...not waiting for us to catch up
but waiting for us as we find our own space
in this world...wait and walk with us.
We will fight
together for real
ves of Indigenous people in the Northern Territory, was passed on 29 June 2012. Many have responded with shock,
s for another ten years the program begun under the Howard coalition government to address abuse and drunkenness.
al and Torres Strait Islander, Church and community groups in questioning the compatibility of the Stronger Futures Bills
The Stronger Futures Legislation extending the intervention into the li
disbelief and great sadness. The Stronger Futures Legislation continue
Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) has joined with many other Aborigina
with Human Rights. Sr Suzette Clark, CRA Justice Co-ordinator, writes
By SUZETTE CLARK RSC
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