MEDIA RELEASE 24 March 2011                                       For Immediate Release
from the National Council of Churches in Australia

World Council of Churches voices its concern over the plight of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People

 

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has voiced its concern about the plight of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples at its recent Central Committee meeting in Geneva.

The WCC statement follows on from a visit to the Northern Territory by a WCC “Living Letters” Team which visited several Aboriginal communities and heard stories and experiences of the Intervention. The Living Letters team expressed concern about the discrimination, oppression and racism they observed and which many Aboriginal people experience on a daily basis.

The WCC, in its statement, expresses solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of Australia and recognises the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to live in traditional lands; maintain and enrich culture and ensure traditions are strengthened and passed on for generations to come.

The WCC urges the Australian Government to engage in proper consultation and negotiation processes which are genuinely inclusive of Aboriginal Peoples, which will better empower and enable them to identify their own aspirations, issues of concern and which will involve their full participation in creating and implementing solutions.

The statement also recognises that Australia has been criticised for Intervention measures by the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples as well as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and requests the Australian Government ensures that policies affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples comply with international conventions.

The Reverend. Tara Curlewis, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and an advisor for the WCC Central Committee said “This statement is very significant as it is in response to the Living Letters visit to Northern Territory communities. Members of the WCC Central Committee were shocked to hear what has happened in Australia in recent years. One leader said ‘Surely this isn’t happening in Australia? I thought Australia was better than this!'”   

Last week the NCCA Executive welcomed the WCC report and statement, the churches hope that Australia will adhere to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and continue to urge the Australian Government to end the Intervention.

The full statement is available at http://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/central-committee/geneva-2011/report-on-public-issues/statement-on-the-situation-of-indigenous-peoples-of-australia.html

The Living Letters report is available at http://www.ncca.org.au/files/Natsiec/2495_LivingLettersReport_Beyond_Intervention_2010_f_lowres_r.pdf

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The WCC living letters visit starts tonight (Sunday) with an informal dinner with Northern Territory Church leaders. Delegates have been arriving over the weekend and are looking forward to meeting people throughout the Northern Territory in the coming days. NATSIEC is hosting the visit and will be travelling with the team.

The delegates are from a wide variety of backgrounds and most are Indigenous. 

WCC Living Letters Visit – September 2010

Delegate list

International delegates:

  • Ms Hera Rere Clarke, WCC Central Committee member, New Zealand, Anglican
  • Ms Renée Grounds, United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, United States
  • Dr Hanna Grace, Egypt, Coptic Orthodox
  • Rev. Dr Mindawati Perangin-Angin, WCC Central Committee member, Indonesia, Karo Batak Protestant Church
  • Fr Rex Reyes, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Episcopal
  • Rev. Dr Anthony Dancer, Social Justice Commission of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia (accompanying member)

Local delegates:

  • Ms Georgie Corowa, Coordinator, Queensland Churches Together Indigenous Peoples and Partnerships.
  • Rev. Sealin Garlett, deputy chair of the NATSIEC Commission, Uniting Church in Australia

WCC and NATSIEC-NCCA staff:

  • Mr Graeme Mundine, NATSIEC-NCCA (local coordinator)
  • Ms Maria Chavez Quispe, WCC (team leader)
  • Ms Gabrielle Russell-Mundine, NATSIEC staff

Media contact: 0419 238 788 or grussell@ncca.org.au