Church Condemns NT Indigenous Intervention

15 August 2007

Uniting Church President, Rev. Gregor Henderson, and Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress National Administrator, Rev. Shayne Blackman have today jointly expressed concern about legislation relating to the Northern Territory Indigenous intervention.

"The Uniting Church stands with its Indigenous leaders in expressing our alarm at the way this legislation has evolved," said Rev. Henderson.

"This is some of the most significant legislation in the history of our nation, over-riding aspects of the Race Discrimination and Native Title acts. It is with disbelief that we note that it merited only a one-day Senate hearing, which did not consult with some of the key stakeholders in the plan.

"Agencies and members of the Uniting Church who work and live in remote communities that will be affected by these changes have expressed their dismay at the way this process has been undertaken, and are fearful of the possible consequences of legislation on the permit system and land tenure," said Rev. Henderson.

Rev. Blackman said the process showed a fundamental lack of respect for the Indigenous people most affected by the changes.

"This legislation has been underpinned by ferocious and hasty so called reforms laced with military style coercion" said Rev Blackman.

"It has not been fully negotiated with those Northern Territory communities in a manner and timeframe that will enable all stakeholders in this issue to be in a position to support these new laws in any cohesive fashion.

"The Government has chosen to pursue populist policies and temporary solutions which will further push Indigenous rights and responsibilities to the fringes.

"This is not the act of a Government that respects and values the Indigenous people of Australia.

"What is needed are long term empowering programs that enable people to take ownership of these changes over the long haul so that any positive developments are sustained and are undergirded by individual responsibility.

"The child abuse crisis is just one of a series of symptomatic societal crises in Indigenous communities resulting from a legacy of failed policies. These problems need long-term, sustainable, fully-costed solutions, and must be backed up by political will and commitment to the long haul," Rev. Blackman said.

Both Church leaders urgently called on the Government to re-evaluate its strategy.

"We call upon the Government to institute a substantial plan for consultation and fairly evaluate the plan on its merits, according to the outcomes it will produce for Indigenous communities and people and in consultation with them", said Rev Henderson.