The Aboriginal leaders said in a statement under the names of Melissa Brickell, Vicki Walker Clark and Graeme Mundine (pictured) that they "felt the pain and suffering of Jesus as Caritas Australia betrayed them", after Caritas CEO Jack de Groot announced that the Indigenous Reference Group was to be disbanded.
Criticising Caritas plans as "futuristic", the leaders said that a particular concern is the fact that Mr de Groot "now has final say on all Aboriginal community development projects in Australia, without reference to any Indigenous advisers".
"The CEO also has the power to override any decision of a Bishop when it comes to programs in their diocese," the statement adds.
The statement authors claim that the Reference group, which has long been "valued and much appreciated", is now "another victim of mainstreaming", saying that they felt "humiliation" by the decision.
The leaders refused to "be used as token blacks at Caritas' beck and call" under the new Caritas policy, they said.
There are now "no Aboriginal advisors on any Caritas Aboriginal developmental programs", the leaders claimed, saying that this was particularly ironic in the Lenten period when Caritas' Project Compassion reflects on Aboriginal issues but Aboriginal voices have been silenced.
According to the Caritas website, the former Indigenous Reference Group assesses and makes recommendations on Indigenous funding proposals sent to Caritas Australia.
The group also "assists with the monitoring and evaluation of projects and guides Caritas Australia on Indigenous issues. This model ensures a high level of Indigenous participation in the program," the website says.
Indigenous leaders statement (Media Release, 1/4/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission
Graeme Mundine (Australians All)
Aboriginal Catholic Ministry - Melbourne
Vicki Walker (Yarra Healing)
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council | Melissa Brickell
Townsville Church concern over Palm Island decision (CathNews, 21/12/06)
Caritas backs plan to end Indigenous "health crisis" (CathNews, 13/12/06)
2 Apr 2007