AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) and the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) today called on all political parties to ensure that an adequate regional and national structure is in place to represent the needs and aspirations of Indigenous people.

Ms Melissa Brickell, Chairperson of NATSICC said, “This time last year, as we entered Reconciliation Week and the Week of Prayer for Reconciliation, our Council expressed sincere hope for political leadership that would restore the energy to deal with the unfinished business of reconciliation in our land. Now, one year on, the lack of consultation and negotiation with Indigenous people on replacing ATSIC with merely a Government-appointed advisory body is disempowering and not ensuring self-determination for Indigenous people. The Government's decisions and actions on this matter are a major threat to National Reconciliation for all Australians”, she said.

Bishop Christopher Saunders, Chairman of the ACSJC said, “Most people are now aware of the challenges facing our Indigenous brothers and sisters. But the extent of the disadvantages on every social and economic indicator of need would still shock many Australians. The proposed transfer of programs once delivered by ATSIC to a variety of Government bureaucracies is a concern. The existing mainstream agencies have hardly delivered on promised improvements in the past.

“On the face of it, the mainstreaming of Indigenous-specific programs and services could be a retrograde step – even when judged according to the basic notion of ‘practical reconciliation’ ”, the Bishop said.

Bishop Saunders and Ms Brickell emphasised the need for a strong, representative and more than advisory voice of Indigenous people for Indigenous Affairs. “During Reconciliation Week, we acknowledge the importance of genuine dialogue and mutual respect in forging a shared future. We note that alternative arrangements to the structure of ATSIC are presently being considered.

“We urge all political parties to consider the rights of Indigenous people to have an influential voice in the decisions that directly affect them”, they concluded.

For further information:

Melissa Brickell, Chairperson, NATSICC   Tel: 0400 195 782