The Uniting Church has written to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, currently visiting Australia, to draw his attention to the concerns being expressed by Indigenous members of the Uniting Church.
The letter, co-signed by Uniting Church President, Rev. Alistair Macrae, and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Chair, Rev. Ken Sumner, outlined for the Special Rapporteur, Prof. James Anaya, what the Church believes is Australia's most pressing human rights concern.
In particular, the letter highlighted:
- discriminatory implementation of policies under a suspended Racial Discrimination Act;
- inadequate consultation with Indigenous peoples affected by the Emergency Response; and
- policies that contravene human rights principles.
Rev. Macrae said the UN Special Rapporteur's visit was timely, given resolutions that were passed at the Uniting Church's recent Triennial Assembly.
"At the 12th Triennial Assembly the Church adopted a statement that highlighted several matters of concern regarding the relationships between Australian governments and Indigenous people," Rev. Macrae said.
"It particularly called on the Federal Government to rectify the lack of negotiation with Indigenous communities about the Northern Territory Emergency Response.
"We have since written to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and requested that the Government urgently facilitate a 'negotiation forum' in the Northern Territory to address a number of serious issues relating to the implementation of the Intervention.
"We do commend the Government for extending the invitation to the Special Rapporteur to see first-hand the Intervention at work. This visit by the UN Special Rapporteur provided us with the opportunity to take our concerns to an audience beyond Australia.
"We do not believe the Emergency Response meets the criteria laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for an emergency situation, the basis for the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. We do not believe that the policies are being implemented in a way that demonstrates genuine long-term partnership and engagement with the communities affected. It is, therefore, vitally important that the United Nations is able to look at the situation independently."
The Uniting Church has been further encouraged by being granted a meeting with Minister Macklin's office to discuss these issues.