Stronger futures or stronger policing?
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) in a statement on March 2 said the Stronger Futures Legislation was disproportionate with the people’s wishes and catapulted Indigenous communities back to the micro-management of mission days.
NATSIEC, as the peak Indigenous ecumenical body and commission of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA), wants the Government to 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.
It said the crux of the legislation lay in cultural and social reform enforced by punitive measures.
That approach, it said, reverted to the paternalistic protectionism from which many Aboriginal families and communities across the country were still recovering.
Legislative realignment at the interface of education, economic, social welfare, Indigenous languages, cultures and traditions might satisfy Government directives but not the people concerned or International Human Rights Laws.
Ms Kerry Charlton, the 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, the NATSIEC Chairperson, 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.”
NATSIEC said government attention to the needs of the Northern Territory Indigenous communities was a necessary part of its 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 was farcical in the wake of such an aggressively held government process, it said.
Social welfare reform required appropriate processes alongside adequate timeframes. Enforcement without negotiated consent disenfranchised and destabilised.
NATSIEC said Aboriginal people had to be the most adaptable people in the world. Change was a necessary part of life but best when agreed upon.
Consultation and negotiation accompanied by relevant research based on Indigenous engagement, models and literature would 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, it said.
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