Media release issued: Friday, June 29, 2007
However, the peak body for Australia's 8000 Catholic nuns, brothers and priests, is alarmed at the way these intolerable circumstances are being addressed.
CRA, meeting in Perth, said today that Religious brothers, nuns and priests had been working with indigenous people in a multitude of remote communities across Australia for generations.
"Our members have worked alongside indigenous health workers, teachers, and social workers for generations," said CRA spokesperson, Fr Tim Brennan MSC.
"They have seen first hand the social breakdown. But they have seen as well the trained and committed indigenous people who day by day strive to make a difference.
"They have watched successive State and Federal Governments with good will strive to develop appropriate policies that will allow people to be the full citizens with the attendant rights and duties that the 1967 referendum initiated."
Fr Brennan said that what appeared to be absent from the present strategy was the harnessing of the existing passion of indigenous people for a better future for themselves and their families.
"Aboriginal Community Government Councils and Land Councils are not without their failings, but in their ranks are people with unique local knowledge and years of dedicated effort. The present approach seems to disregard all this progress in favour of a plan of action that implies indigenous people have little to contribute to turning around their circumstances."
Fr Brennan said that the issues were urgent. The solutions would not be not simple and were not likely to be uniform.
"Governments have a history of not making the moral and financial commitment that is needed for the long haul.
"Unfortunately the current national goodwill is in danger of dissipating unless there are clear signals from the Federal Government that the fundamental rights enshrined in the 1976 NT Land Rights Act and the NT Self-Government Act are not under threat.
"Those Catholic Religious who live night and day in remote indigenous communities know only to well the social breakdown, the exploitation, and the suffering of children. But they know, too, about the non-existent jobs, the lack of adequate housing, the poor health care, the limited educational outcomes, the absence of sufficient policing, all of which contribute to the multitude of social problems.
"The challenge in the present circumstances is for the Federal Government to work in partnership with the NT Government and with indigenous people and organisations.
"That is the dreaming track to follow."