CATHOLICS have been called on to support moves to encourage the Federal Government to remove what are seen as areas of discrimination in the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) legislation.
Brisbane archdiocese’s Murri Ministry co-ordinator Ravina Waldren made the call after attending a forum on the NTER earlier this month hosted by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) of the National Council of Churches in Australia.
A statement issued by the National Council of Churches Australia (NCCA) after the forum said Churches were asked “to increase the effectiveness of their prayer (for a satisfactory outcome to the Government’s deliberations on the NTER and other issues) by developing a deeper understanding of the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.
“One way in which this can be achieved is by inviting local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Church leaders to speak,” the statement said.
The forum, held earlier this month mainly to evaluate the impact of the NTER (also known as the Intervention) and to develop a common platform for action, was attended by representatives of Churches including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), the Salvation Army and the Churches of Christ, and Church leaders including Anglican Bishop of the Northern Territory Greg Thompson.
“We as Christians should be following this issue and supporting the local Church groups, local leaders and communities for a positive outcome with the Government,” Ms Waldren said.
“Especially when communities are forced from their homelands and become fringe dwellers in their own lands through the land acquisition process from the Government.”
The NTER is a package of changes to welfare provision, law enforcement, land tenure and other measures, introduced by the Federal Government under John Howard in August, 2007, intended to address claims of rampant child sexual abuse and neglect in Northern Territory Aboriginal communities.
Ms Waldren said the four-day forum had raised several key areas of concern in relation to the Northern Territory Intervention.
“These were the lack of proper negotiation with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and the lack of voice given to many community people,” she said.
“An additional area of concern was the discriminatory nature of the Intervention.”
There was agreement about the importance of Churches actively engaging in these issues and being “a prophetic voice for justice” for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Ms Waldron said.
“While there were many examples spoken about where Churches have taken a lead and provided models for successfully working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, there are still areas where Churches too can increase their effort.”