By Timothy McDonald

A new study has found some people in remote Indigenous communities are spending between 10 and 20 per cent of their income on ATM fees.

In some cases, the fees are much higher than they would be in the city, but there is no competition, so locals have no option but to pay.

The author of the study says the government should act to eliminate fees in the poorest communities.

Australian Financial Counselling and Credit Reform Association executive director Fiona Guthrie says ATM fees in one community are as high as $10.

“ATMs will always charge sometimes $2, sometimes $2.50, and there’s one community where it’s up to $10 and you can’t avoid the fee because you can’t go and use EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) because the stores also charge fees,” she said.

The manager of Money Management Services for Lutheran Community Care in Alice Springs, Judy Woolcock, says the realities of life in remote communities aggravate the problem.

“They don’t have fridges and they don’t have a lot of places to do cooking and storing of food. So they go and buy food on a daily basis and that then incurs a fee,” she said.

She says the sometimes irregular nature of government payments means many people cop fees just to see if they have any money at all.

“Often they’re waiting for Centrelink payments to come through so they keep checking the ATMs. So they might have used the ATM between five and 10 times that day just waiting for the money to come through,” she said.

Withdrawal limits

Aaron Davis is the CEO of the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network, based in North Queensland.

He recently visited one ATM on the Torres Strait Islands, which was is particularly expensive.

“Every time you took out money you’d be charged $5, but you were only able to take out $100 at a time,” he said.

He said many of his clients appear to be spending a large portion of their income simply to access their own money.

“On average they paid $2,300 annually in bank fees,” he said.

Some store operators say they are trying to do the right thing.

Rodney Matuschka is the acting manager of the Finke River Mission Store at Hermannsburg, west of Alice Springs.

His store does not charge for EFTPOS.

He says the stores have little say in ATM charges, although they do earn a small dividend if they reach a certain number of transactions.

“Pretty much every month, with the size of this community here and the number of transactions that go through the machine, we would pretty much invariably make a small dividend out of that machine,” Mr Matuschka said.

He says his own store allows withdrawals of up to $400 and there are some options for local residents to minimise fees.

“If they’re drawing money out and doing some shopping, the smart customer will say ‘well I’ll just use my EFTPOS card through the EFTPOS machine and I’ll save myself the cost of withdrawing from an ATM’,” he said.

Fiona Guthrie says it is unacceptable that some of Australia’s most disadvantaged people are being charged fees, and the Government needs to act.

“Competition is not going to do it,” she said.

“There has to be some sort of intervention, either through the Reserve Bank mandating that the fees are not to be charged, or by asking the banks themselves to come good on their obligations to provide banking services to all Australians and actually putting in ATMs into those communities so people can access them free of charge.”

This is the link to the transcript of this week’s Living Black edition on the election. Also talk about SIHIP.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Report written by Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM on behalf of himself and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM, both of whom attended the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – 77th Session August 2010


I want to begin by expressing my thanks to the Quaker United Nations Office whose personnel accompanied Rosalie and myself in Geneva.

I also want to thank members of the NGO team, the Australian Racial Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes and his staff, Les Malezer from FAIRA, and the representatives from the National Association of Community Legal Services, Amnesty International and the National Native Title Council, for hearing our story and helping us to put this in our report to the Committee.

I want to thank the CERD committee itself, with the rapporteur Jose Calitzay, for truly hearing our personal experience of what is happening in the Northern Territory (NT) for the first people of Australia, and then sharing that concern back to the Australian Government delegation when they appeared before the committee.

Finally I wish to thank ‘concerned Australians’ who negotiated our appearance before CERD and enabled our travel to Geneva from our communities in the NT.  

It was encouraging for us to meet people interested in our struggle for justice and peace. We were able to meet many individuals personally. They are people who will stand in solidarity against this system that has made us victims.

The trip to the UN headquarters in Geneva was very worthwhile for us because it allowed the world to hear what is truly happening to the First peoples of Australia in isolated communities in the NT, places that have not been represented well by media and government reporting. We have repeatedly tried to bring attention to our cause through the government, and other organizations. This has not been a possible doorway.

We have not received any response from the Government –  this was a good time to go to the UN. The UN was able to hear us express that the NTER and intervention are not a special measures. It shows that what the Australian Government is trying to do is target the First peoples of this country. By going to the UN, we are asking the Australian Government to take our concerns seriously.

I can now see that the UN is the vehicle for the voice of Aboriginal people to be heard.  That is before the highest council in the world. This is the same way other countries resolve issues of race, and discrimination.

The Australian Government has supported the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and must remove the NTER measures from the legislation, and start to look at a more positive ways of working with all Australians. We must be treated equally. This is justice for everyone.

We all agree that children should be looked after, that there should not be domestic violence, that there should not be violence from alcohol. These are issues that affect all Australians. We should not have been targeted as the only people that are affected by these issues. We should be finding the solutions together.

Many Australians are concerned with how the First Australians are being treated by the Australian Government. They can see that this is unjust. Ordinary Australians can see this injustice in a democratic country and know that it shouldn’t be happening. When you share with a body such as the UN – straight away they see that Australia is racist and that the Government does not govern with the spirit of peace and order.

The survival for Aboriginal people relies on changes to the Constitution and  the establishment of a Treaty. The treaty needs to be borne out of the people who have a very strong connection with land, culture, spirituality and law. rather than being established by government, or a committee formed by government.  It should be established by the people that maintain tradition because  the necessary tools are already  in place.

Now that we are back in Australia, we want to establish an ongoing forum where there is a relationship between traditional peoples of central Australia,  Arnhem Land and groups like the Human Rights Commission and other interested parties to continue the conversation that has been started.

Visiting the UN has helped me to see that we are not alone in the struggle for human rights. There is a platform for all indigenous people of the world where we can go and share our concerns. Both Rosalie and myself felt great relief at being able to share our pain, on behalf of our people in Central and Northern Australia, in this forum.

(forwarded from concerned Australians) – further details are on our website at

Indigenous leaders have today announced they will continue to prosecute their case against Australian energy company Santos to renegotiate the terms of its compensation package under its Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) or face a serious backlash and possible further action against their domestic operations. Gurang leader Shayne Blackman said the Company’s proposed Native Title recompense deal under its multibillion-dollar Gladstone Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project fell well short of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people’s expectations and amounted to economic rape and Native Title plunder. “What we have is a Company that will reap in the order of $60 billion in revenue over a 40 year period with its 3-4 million tonnes per annum LNG processing train and associated infrastructure while offering the equivalent of beads and mirrors for its impacts on Native Title lands – those days are over” Mr. Blackman said. ‘Santos has a unique opportunity to demonstrate its corporate social responsibility to a triple bottom line – people, planet and profit but regrettably appears to be only interested in profit at the great expense of people and I would urge its shareholders to investigate and consider this injustice and fact. “While many would say energy and mining companies loosely translate the notion of fairness for just recompense, the Gurang people are prepared to give Santos the benefit of the doubt in future talks as they seek to work collaboratively with the Company. “Santos has a valuable opportunity to help Close the Gap by providing a package sufficient to not only provide real training, real jobs and ultimately a better community for Indigenous people but one that responds to Indigenous people’s vision for the region, and that extends well beyond basic tokenism measures. “Traditional land owners have a right to know and a moral obligation to respond to any inequality that is to befall their lands and the people on it, as the opportunity cost to land disfigurement and a disruption to their traditional laws and customs is too great. “Owners will be seeking a negotiated outcome with Santos and urge the Company to heed the call of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who are prepared to pursue whatever avenue necessary to seek fairness and justice for the First People’s of this nation” said Mr. Blackman.

Thanks to Michele Harris, concerned Australians, for forwarding this information. Following the Government statement is some robust commentary from Les Malazer – FAIRA.  

Sorry this post is so long, but it raises some interesting  and important points.

 ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly 28 October 2009

H.E Gary Quinlan Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia National Statement on Human Rights

Today, I reaffirm the Australian Government’s commitment to human rights. Since coming to office two years ago, the new Australian Government has turned this commitment into genuine progress in the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights at home – and abroad. Necessarily, the Government began with a focus on the needs of the most marginalised in Australian society. The Prime Minister’s apology, on behalf of our nation, to Indigenous Australians for past mistreatment, signalled the beginning of a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This new beginning was backed by a $5.6 billion investment to address Indigenous disadvantage. And in April this year, the Australian Government announced its support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

More broadly, the Government announced on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the most extensive community consultation on human rights in Australia’s history – the National Human Rights Consultation. The Consultation held more than 65 community roundtables and public hearings in more than 50 urban, regional and remote locations across the country. It received more than 35,000 submissions. The Consultation generated a considerable discussion of human rights across Australia. The Consultation has provided the Government with a valuable document.

The resulting report identifies what Australia does well, where we can do better, and assesses options for greater protection of human rights in Australia. The Government is now closely examining this report. This was a key moment in Australia’s history in moving our domestic debate on human rights forward and we welcome the enthusiasm expressed by so many Australian men and women towards a better realisation of human rights for all.

In parallel with these domestic efforts, the Australian Government has renewed its commitment to meeting Australia’s international human rights obligations. And it has taken steps to assume further international obligations under relevant treaties. Australia has long played a part in the international protection of human rights.

We draw continuing inspiration from the work of our former Foreign Minister and third President of the General Assembly, Dr Evatt, whose influence is reflected in Article 55 of the United Nations Charter. This article – which became known at the San Francisco conference as the ‘Australian pledge’ – commits the UN to promote ‘higher standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic and social progress and development’. Evatt’s vision remains as important today as it was in 1945. Faced with global food, debt and financial crises, it is critical that the international community acknowledge the importance of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights.

The international community should – as Australia does – recognise that the processes of development must be equitable and accessible to all, including to the most vulnerable. Individuals and communities must have the right to participate in the development processes that affect them.

Australia looks forward to using our seat on the Economic and Social Council to advance the realisation of these fundamental rights – and widespread adherence to the treaties that support their implementation.

Realisation of gender equity is fundamental to the achievement of economic development. Australia welcomes strengthened institutional arrangements to support gender equity and the empowerment of women. We support efforts to establish a composite UN agency for women. We look forward to the swift appointment of a strong and competent Under-Secretary-General to build a dynamic entity able to fulfil its mandate. Gender architecture reform will better enable member states to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment nationally, as well as to fulfil international commitments to women.

The time has come for all countries to address discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. The Australian Government has introduced reforms to enable same-sex couples and their children to have the same entitlements as opposite sex de facto couples under our national law.

One enduring global human rights concern is the death penalty. Australia strongly opposes the death penalty and we reiterate our support for a moratorium on executions. We call on countries retaining the death penalty to follow the example set recently by the Republic of Togo in abolishing the death penalty.

We want to register our opposition to corporal punishment when used as a criminal sanction by Governments. Floggings, amputations and such methods of criminal punishment have no place in any judicial system in the 21st century.

Mr Chairman The protection of human rights is a paramount obligation of each and every State. Many States have recently taken significant steps to improve human rights. We welcome Laos’ and Burkina Faso’s recent ratification of the Disabilities Convention and Laos’ ratification of the ICCPR. Brazil acceded to both Optional Protocols to the ICCPR this year.

We commend the constructive way in which small nations – such as Vanuatu, Tonga and Tuvalu – have approached their Universal Periodic Review, notwithstanding the challenges facing small island states without representation in Geneva. Australia welcomes the launch of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the first regional human rights body in the Asia-Pacific. We look to the Commission to fulfil the expectations of the people of the region.

Australia focuses on current challenges, but we continue to be mindful of past injustices. As we recognised through our apology to Indigenous Australians, we cannot move forward until we examine the past. In this vein, we welcomed the launch earlier this year of the United Nations trust fund for a memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade and were honoured to become an early contributor.

Unfortunately, some countries have failed to live up to their obligations to their people. The situation in Fiji has worsened since April when the military regime abrogated the Constitution, imposed draconian Public Emergency Regulations, dismissed the judiciary and delayed elections until 2014. We call on the regime in Fiji to withdraw immediately these regulations, to make good on its commitment to genuine dialogue, and to move quickly to free and fair elections.

We share longstanding concerns about Iran’s fulfilment of its human rights obligations. Iranians should have the right to peaceful protest and free expression of their political views. We deplore the violence that followed the June presidential elections. We are concerned by the continued detention of so-called opponents of the regime, executions of juvenile offenders and discrimination against minorities such as the Baha’is. Australia urges Iran to ensure transparency in its judicial system, and to investigate fully reports of torture, rape and death in detention.

We have consistently called for democratic reform and reconciliation in Myanmar, including the release of all political prisoners. While condemning the conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi on spurious charges in August, we welcome the recent contact between her and the Myanmar Government, and we urge genuine dialogue. Australia strongly supports the engagement of the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar, and we urge Myanmar to respond constructively to his proposals.

Australia, along with the international community, continues to monitor closely the Sri Lankan Government’s progress on the difficult challenge of its internally displaced people, including on their resettlement, as well as how it institutes political reform and reconciliation. Success in these areas is the key to creating a peaceful, stable and prosperous future for Sri Lanka. We have long held concerns about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. We were concerned to read reports today of the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Torture being cancelled as he was en route to Zimbabwe. We emphasise the importance of country visits to the proper performance of duties by the special procedures and urge Zimbabwe to facilitate access on this occasion.

Mr Chairman The strength of the Australian Government’s engagement on human rights reflects our conviction that national implementation of human rights standards is paramount. And vital global human rights institutions and initiatives should guide and assist States in this process. For this reason the international community must use the forthcoming review of the Human Rights Council to assess the effectiveness of the international human rights system. Australia has been encouraged by aspects of the Council’s work, particularly the Universal Periodic Review and the valuable work of the Special Procedure mandate holders.

We value the independence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. And we believe the Human Rights Council can do more to respond to urgent human rights challenges. In this endeavour, and in the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights more broadly, Australia will remain an active and constructive partner. ENDS

Commentary and opinion from Les Malazer – FAIRA 

(Disclaimer: these views are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or position of NATSIEC)

Although it is now a few months old, the statement to the UN (below), on behalf of Australia, shows the hypocracy by the government regarding human rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


On one hand the Rudd Government is extending the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act in Australia while at the very same time telling the UN that ‘we continue to be mindful of past injustices’, that there is ‘the beginning of a new relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians’ and ‘the Australian Government has renewed its commitment to meeting Australia’s international human rights obligations’. Australia also claims to be closely examining the report of the National Human Rights Consultation when we know there is no such action being taken and that the report is shelved.


The evidence provided by Australia that it is concerned about the human rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is not evidence of self-determination and empowerment. It is not evidence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people speaking for themselves. It is not evidence of the development of the people and their communities. It is not evidence of the cultural survival through languages, customary law, self-governing institutions. The government makes the claim of a ‘$5.6 billion’ investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander development. This dollar figure is meant to impress the ignorant and silence the dissenters. It is meant to trump the claims of the Howard government of $4 billion expenditure, and stands as the benchmark to be overtaken by the next government.

Nobody – absolutely NOBODY – knows what this figure represents or where to find any details.

The figure actually represents how much unemployment benefits are paid to the huge numbers of unemployed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the workforce. It represents the estimate of how much mainstream health expenditure is proportionally for our people, and it represents how much mainstream education expenditure is supposedly available. It is a lie, an absolute out and out lie.

It has been the standard for government reporting for the past fifteen years, implying that the ‘burden’ of pursuing Aboriginal and Islander people equality in Australia is evidence of goodwill, and that should be enough effort in ensuring their human rights. However, it does not represent an investment at all when you realise other figures paint a different picture, eg – the total government ‘investment’ in the Australian population in the last budget was $340 billion, and the corresponding ‘investment’ in the 2% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was only 1.6% – (and not evidence supporting the supposed delivery of equal services and infrastructure in remote communities). (see graph at bottom) – the export of raw products from Australia – minerals and agricultural products from the lands stolen from the Aboriginal people – in the last financial year alone was over $215 billion.

The dollar figure is even more pathetic when you take into account: – State and Territory governments direct money away from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for mainstream expenditure. – Allocated funds are largely unspent for the year, and are then re-announced in the next budget. – Any funds that make it into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs are skimmed by high administration and delivery costs, with very few dollars ‘hitting the ground, in communities’. – A large proportion of the expenditure in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs is used by government to closely monitor and manage communities, organisations and individuals in a way to prevent decision-making, development and self-determination.


This statement by the Australian government reinforces the concerns of FAIRA that the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the sub-committee responsible for human rights and humanitarian issues, is an off-track, unaccountable body which ultimately sidelines the work of the Human Rights Council and leaves human rights in the politicised community of the UN diplomats based in New York. Note, for instance, that Australia makes no reference at all to the work and the report of the Human Rights Council. For the uninitiated, the Human Rights Council is the UN body established in the new millennium (and made operational in 2006) to elevate the importance of human rights in the work of the United Nations. During the early stages a challenge was made to the existence of the Third Committee of UNGA once the Human Rights Council was created. It was argued by UNGA that the Human Rights Council, as the ‘third pillar’ of the UN, should stand equal to the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council, in ensuring ‘security, development and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing’. The Human Rights Council along with the High Commissioner for Human Rights are based in Geneva and this is where the non-State organisations for human rights are committed and focussed. At the Third Committee, in New York, the doors effectively remain closed to Civil Society and non-State bodies. While observers are allowed to witness the sessions, only international organisations and New York-based societies are able to attend. The Third Committee clearly remains an ‘inner sanctum’ for governments to filter human rights matters without accountability.

The statement by the Australian Ambassador should have been pre-empted in a more accountable forum such as the Human Rights Council to ensure that the claims were legitimate and that Australians were made aware of the international face of the racist Rudd government.


As an endnote, I should add that I have strong praise for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his department who are trying to demonstrate a commitment to the positive role of the United Nations and to the human rights obligations of Australia. I praise that the government has, in this statement, announced it has supported the United Nations trust fund to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade and is an early contributor to that fund. Unfortunately the murky and sinister side of government towards the Indigenous Peoples lies embedded in the administration of FaHCSIA, including the Minister, which exists to ‘bottleneck’ all policy addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives.


Regrettably, Australia’s policy and administration on indigenous affairs is now a political act of ‘State-based’ segregation, where the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are different to non-Indigenous Australians and the lives of our people are micro-managed by the incompetent formula of bureaucrats aligned to a over-zealous, fanatical Minister, rather than the people they are supposed to serve.

Australia is described as a parliamentary democracy. It is no such thing. It is a modern form of colonial government where the rights of the FIrst Peoples have been downtrodden and sidelined to make way for aliens, and where those aliens have formed a system of government for themselves while stealing and keeping the lands and resources of the First Peoples.

No provision has been made in the alien government for fair political representation of the First Peoples, for the inherent rights of the First Peoples to be respected, for restitution of the stolen properties including lands, waters and resources, or for compensation of injustices including racism.

The State of Australia cannot be a political democracy until those deficiencies are addressed, because a democracy is in definition a political state where all peoples are equal, peoples determine their own political status, all peoples freely choose their representatives and peoples can exercise the rights to economic, social and cultural development.

Even the proposed national indigenous representative body, ‘the First Nations Congress’, is tailored to suit the government. It is structured not to be something positive but to be something the government can accept. We know what ‘not another ATSIC’ means. It means the thirty years of development and progress we had made since 1973, is to be buried and not resurrected.

A new path must be forged by this supposed ‘representative’ body based upon ‘white’ values, forcing: – a body with no powers except to advise government

– an ethics committee to screen candidates (- would parliamentarians pass such screening?),

– a prescriptive gender allocation, not as a special measure but as a permanent pre-requisite for selection,

– an elite form of executive governance involving only a handful of people,

– no direct path for community level people to influence or direct executives,

– no provision for community reporting, transparency, accountability, monitoring or appeal, and

– an institution no less vulnerable than ATSIC to public ridicule and media attacks if it pursues self determination.

 The government has ensured that this ‘representative’ body has no powers other than to advise government, and provided just enough budget to keep it busy in the play pen rather than advance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination. Regrettably, Australia still cannot present an honest face internationally over the continued colonisation and oppression of the Indigenous Peoples.


More than 30,000 people across Australia are today taking part in National Close the Gap Day (Thursday 25 March) to send a strong message to government to get its approach right on addressing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health crisis.

Close the Gap steering committee co-chair Mick Gooda said more than 550 events in homes, schools, workplaces, community halls, churches, public spaces, government departments and Aboriginal and mainstream health services would celebrate the progress in the campaign to close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non- Indigenous Australians and urge further action by government. “Thousands more people are taking part in National Close the Gap Day this year, showing that public interest in ‘closing the gap’ is growing,” Mr Gooda said. “It’s clear that people do not want the government to take the foot off the pedal now, they expect the government to get it right and meet all of their commitments to close the gap.” Mr Gooda pointed to the second anniversary (on 20 March) of the historic signing of the Statement of Intent between the Government and Opposition of Australia and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia – to work together to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians by the year 2030. “It’s two years since we committed to ensuring the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their representative bodies in all aspects of addressing their health needs,” he said. “I think today’s events send a clear reminder to government that closing the gap must remain one of its top priorities.”

Close the Gap steering committee co-chair Tom Calma said while the Government’s support for the goals of the Close the Gap campaign had brought about some big achievements, such as the Council of Australian Governments’ $1.6 billion injection into Indigenous health and robust engagement with the Close the Gap Steering Committee, gaps remained in the Government’s approach. As the Close the Gap campaign’s Shadow Report on progress highlighted last month, the government is yet to deliver on its commitment to a comprehensive action plan, working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and greater investment in Aboriginal Community Controlled health, recognised as the best model of delivering health care for Indigenous Australians. “This year, the variety of events on National Close the Gap Day is again huge – from school children creating Indigenous artwork to community forums, from morning teas to university barbecues and Aboriginal community controlled health services open days,” Mr Calma said.

“These people are aware of the human tragedy that lies behind the statistics on Aboriginal health – that babies born to Indigenous mothers die at twice the rate of other babies, Indigenous Australian men suffer heart disease and stroke at three times the rate of other Australian men, and Indigenous Australian women die from cervical cancer at a rate five times higher than their non-Indigenous counterparts. They are also aware that government urgently needs to get its approach right if we are to close the gap within a generation. “As I have said before, it is not credible to suggest that one of the wealthiest nations on earth cannot solve a health crisis affecting less than three per cent of its citizens.”


Catholic Social Services Australia’s Executive Director, Frank Quinlan, said the absence of consultation in the development of new income management legislation currently before the Parliament has demonstrated the desperate need for an effective Compact between the Federal Government and community organisations. Mr Quinlan welcomed the extensive consultation with the community sector over the past two years which has led to the Compact – a principles-based document which advocates stronger, more meaningful partnerships with not-for-profit organisations. But he warned the Compact would have implications for future government policy development. In a real partnership, the Government would not introduce such sweeping and revolutionary legislation without genuine consultation with those agencies and individuals who are closest to the heart of the matter, Mr Quinlan said.

As I am sure you have heard, Tony Abbot and Wilson Tuckey have criticized acknowledging Country as tokenistic. Needless to say we at NATSIEC reject this ill considered point of view and think it shows a lack of cultural understanding and respect. In fact, it is our policy to always acknowledge Country and is also in our Memorandum of Understanding with the National Council of Churches that all NCCA meetings must start with an acknowledgement.  Others have also made statements disagreeing with the leader of the Opposition and Tuckey. We think it’s best stated by the UAICC in their press release.


The Indigenous arm of the Uniting Church in Australia has today labeled the comments made by Tony Abbott and Wilson Tuckey concerning acknowledgement of Indigenous traditional owners of land as nothing more than an opposition desperate to maintain its relevancy.

National UAICC Administrator Rev Shayne Blackman and UAICC Chairperson Rev Ken Sumner said the venomous and archaic comments were deeply offensive to all Indigenous people and would unravel any goodwill the opposition may have had made in recent times.

“It is now clear that the Leader of the Opposition and his learned underling have no genuine understanding of how to politically or culturally align themselves to Aboriginal people and their struggle and regrettably their comments and stance will cost them down the line” Rev Blackman said.

“These are elected members of parliament who cannot be allowed to use their tax payer salary to incite contempt under the guise of genuine political commentary – it is one thing to make legitimate political statements, it is another to belittle any group within the nation for sensationalism” said Rev Blackman.

Rev Ken Sumner said Tony Abbott getting lost in the outback recently was indicative of planned media attention which may have been amusing to some however; the line was drawn in the sand over these obnoxious ‘media driven’ comments which cut to the very heart of the respect and recognition for what Indigenous people have been struggling for since this country was invaded.

“Further, by Wilson Tuckey deriding the weight of some Welcome to Country dancers is unhelpful and indicative of an individual who has no understanding of the very real health issues facing Indigenous people not having equitable access to good nutrition in remote communities” Rev Sumner said.

“We would have hoped for a responsible opposition party that sought to outline alternative policy to address the socio-economic plight of many Indigenous people – one of them being obesity linked to proper nutrition, not via derision and mockery” said Rev Sumner.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) urges Senators to vote against the Bill currently before them on Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Despite the Senate Committee Majority Report indicating support for the Bill the overwhelming majority of submissions to that inquiry showed there are serious concerns about the Bill.

NATSIEC does not support the idea that we should pass faulty legislation and hope to sort it out later. We must ensure that legislation is passed which ensures the rights of all Indigenous Peoples are fully protected immediately. The faults that are apparent in the proposed legislation should be addressed before it is passed in the Senate.

“Good legislation is one that is well thought out and well researched. There is enough evidence for the Government to get this legislation right now. Why do we always have to put up with bad policies and bad legislation?” said Graeme Mundine, Executive Secretary of NATSIEC.  

While the proposed Bill does provide better protection than is currently available under the NTER, it does not go far enough. As it stands the bill will not fully reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act and, as the Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples found, Australia will continue to breach the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and will also contravene International Human Rights Conventions.

“This is not a choice between faulty legislation and no change. There is a third way -the Government can negotiate amendments to ensure the full reinstatement of the RDA and the full protection of the rights of Aborigines in the Northern Territory.

 I urge Senators to stand up for the rights of Aborigines and to negotiate improvements to the Bill before it is passed,” Mr Mundine concluded.

 For further comment: Graeme Mundine 0419 238 788

Thursday 11th March

Readings:              Lk 11:14-23

Pray for:                The peoples and needs of Palm Island

Reflection:            ‘I said when I was on Palm Island almost two weeks ago that the Palm Island Catholic community is the most important parish community in the diocese. I am not sure if all those who heard me understood why I said that. It was because the Palm Island Catholic community and the larger community of Palm Island are the communities experiencing the greatest pain in our diocese at the moment, and where there is pain there is Jesus Christ. Where there is the greatest pain he is most powerfully present and where Jesus is most powerfully, there is the centre of our diocese…

Our world is imperfect, all our programs and initiatives are imperfect, but this must not stop us. The worst possible outcome of this present crisis would be that we would give up trying because of it. No matter how imperfect our world and how much we have to deal with and put up with and live with, no matter who we are, indigenous or not, we must never give up. We have no right to give up because Christ has set us free and Christ has won the victory.’

Bishop Michael Putney, Homily at Mass for Reconciliation 14 Dec 2004, shortly after the death of Cameron Doomadgee in police custody.