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National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission

Stronger Futures or Stronger Policy

The Stronger Futures Legislation is disproportionate with the peoples wishes and catapults Indigenous communities back to the micro-management of Mission days is the message from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC).  NATSIEC, as the peak Indigenous ecumenical body and commission of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) requests that the Government heed the message of the Northern Territory Elders, communities and service providers in their quest for authentic consultation and negotiation to gain stronger and better futures for themselves.

The crux of this legislation lies in cultural and social reform enforced by punitive measures.  This approach reverts back to the paternalistic protectionism from which many Aboriginal families and communities across the country are still recovering.  Legislative realignment at the interface of education, economic, social welfare, Indigenous languages, cultures and traditions may satisfy Government directives but not the people concerned or International Human Rights Laws.

Ms Kerry Charlton, NATSIEC National Director said; “Unfortunately, responding to historical and cultural disadvantage without community ownership will lead to increased rates of Indigenous incarceration, reduced well-being and health status, youth crisis, family stress and suicide rates.”

Bishop Saibo Mabo, NATSIEC Chairperson in endorsing the NATSIEC position said “we’ve worked the land freely for thousands of years had customary laws and were healthy in our own right. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a spirit like the eagle, like the eagle that holds close to his home and wants to protect it. We were blessed by and in our land, a God given gift to us”

Government attention to the needs of the Northern Territory Indigenous communities is a necessary part of it’s duty of care to all Australians.  The conversation about Constitutional recognition, protecting and respecting the rights of Aboriginal peoples in all policy decisions and implementation is farcical in the wake of such an aggressively held government process.  Social welfare reform requires appropriate processes alongside adequate timeframes.  Enforcement without negotiated consent disenfranchises and destabilises.

Aboriginal people have had to be the most adaptable people in the world.  Change is a necessary part of life but best when agreed upon.  Consultation and negotiation accompanied by relevant research based on Indigenous engagement, models and literature will produce better and more effective outcomes than the consult and dictate approach.  All the voices in the targeted areas must be listened to and considered.

NATSIEC emphasises that if  Government won’t consult and negotiate effectively with Indigenous peoples through the cross-cultural complexities, protocols and languages it will be a case of the past revisited with the roll out of a legislation that pierces the pillars of an ancient cultures, languages, laws and land.

Stronger Futures can be visionary.  To be authentic it must reflect the Indigenous voices as well as observe International Human Rights laws and the United Nations Declaration on the rights of Australian Indigenous Peoples. Governmental approaches must be managed appropriately to alleviate stress levels that accompany any change processes.  NATSIEC asks the Government to delay the Legislative process and engage with the people in a way that demonstrates leadership based on consultation and negotiation for true Stronger Futures.

For further comment contact Kerry Charlton 0448046828