Mercies, Joeys issue challenge on Indigenous progress

Questioning what has been achieved since the 1967 referendum relating to Indigenous Australians, leaders of the Mercy and Josephite congregations have challenged Australia to ensure that Aboriginal people have "a standard of living commensurate with citizenship in a developed country".

Speaking on behalf of three thousand Catholic nuns across Australia, congregational leaders, Srs Katrina Brill and Karon Donnellon question how it is that so many Indigenous Australians miss out on the benefits of citizenship enjoyed by many other Australians.

"Forty years ago this week," the sisters say in a statement, "almost 91 per cent of the Australian electorate voted yes to referendum questions which brought about changes to the Australian constitution."

"The changes meant, in effect, that for the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were acknowledged in the constitution as full citizens of Australia."

Forty years later, the two congregations have joined together in a bid to highlight the inequity that still exists between many Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians, they say.

"Australians might enjoy technical equality, but it takes more than changes to the Constitution to guarantee that the benefits of citizenship will be enjoyed by all," the leaders statement continues.

Successive governments "have failed to address gross Indigenous disadvantage," the sisters argue.

"Significant political will from all levels of government is necessary to establish, in consultation with Indigenous People, ongoing and fully funded programs to address, in meaningful ways, indigenous disadvantage," the sisters said.

Josephite sister criticises "prostitution" of language

Meanwhile, Catholic community leaders met yesterday at the Australian Catholic University in North Sydney to celebrate the referendum anniversary and Pentecost day.

In her talk, well-known Josephite Sr Susan Connelly compared the colonisation process in East Timor with the loss of Aboriginal language and culture in Australia.

"Each language has a particular way of interpreting the world, adding to humanity's store of truth and to its ability to perceive," she told the annual gathering.

"We are probably unaware of the extent of the loss to the world of the 150 Australian Aboriginal languages which are now dead."

However, the East Timor advocate says that it is not just Aboriginal languages that are being destroyed.

She accuses the Federal Government of wasting "vast amounts of money" on advertising that is not intended to inform but to deceive.

"The attack on truth which is integral to the prostitution of language as practised by the present Federal Government is behind its inability to express the sorrow of the population at large for the treatment of the indigenous peoples of this land," she said.

"The loss of any language is a loss to the whole human race apart from the death blow to the culture from which it comes and which it forms," Sr Connelly says.

What have the last 40 years delivered Indigenous Australians? (Mercy, Josephite Media Release, 27/5/07)
Nun criticises "prostitution" of language (New Pentecost Forum, 28/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Make Indigenous Poverty History
Archbishop Philip Wilson
Catholic Religious Australia
Australian referendum 1967 (Wikipedia)
Voices of hope - New Pentecost Forum

1967 Aboriginal referendum hopes dashed (CathNews, 25/5/07)
Colonisers "trampled" on indigenous rights, Pope admits (CathNews, 24/5/07)
Indigenous Aussies among first climate change victims (CathNews, 4/10/05)

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