Church Condemns Shameful Opposition Comments

16 March 2010

President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev. Alistair Macrae has condemned the recent comments by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and other Opposition members concerning the acknowledgement of traditional Indigenous ownership of land as ignorant and destructive.

Tony Abbott has criticised Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Ministers as engaging in "tokenism" and unnecessary political correctness when they acknowledge traditional owners while speaking at functions.

Rev. Macrae said, "such comments reveal a concerning level of ignorance about the significance and function of the regular acknowledgment of the traditional owners of land. They are extremely unhelpful in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

"Mr Abbott's comments give tacit approval to others to make ignorant and racist comments which can only unravel the goodwill that exists between so many Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

"The acknowledgement of traditional owners at public and community gatherings is the least that we can do in the light of the invasion by Europeans and the consequent dispossession experienced by Australia's First Peoples. Hopefully such acknowledgments represent substantial commitments to reconciliation and spur the community to engage with more than words. For the Uniting Church in Australia, repeating that acknowledgement in an attitude of deep respect whenever we gather serves to remind us that we are committed, together with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, to the on-going work of reconciliation.

"The attitude of some members of the Opposition is deeply disrespectful. We look to our politicians to provide leadership for a better Australia but these comments display no evidence of a commitment to such leadership. They are disappointing and offensive," Rev. Macrae said.

"The Uniting Church in Australia is grateful for the relationship we have with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. We remain committed to working together for a better Australia – a country that can admit the mistakes of the past and look ahead to the future with hope and pride."