Uniting Church publicly laments Stronger Futures legislation
Almost 400 Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of the Uniting Church in Australia joined forces on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide on July 19 to lament the Federal Government’s Stronger Futures legislation and its damaging effects on Indigenous communities.
Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), Rronang Garrawurra, and Rev. Prof. Andrew Dutney, President of the Uniting Church Assembly, stood side-by-side united in their call to the Australian Government to commit to genuine, continued consultation with Australia’s First People about their land, their welfare and their rights.
“Our political leaders must rise above the election cycle and commit funds and resources to practical programs that are evidence-based with accountable and transparent process,” Prof. Dutney said.
“The programs need to be developed and implemented in partnership with Indigenous communities rather than imposed upon them.”
The Uniting Church Assembly meeting in Adelaide had heard earlier in the week from its Indigenous members about how the Stronger Futures legislation had encroached upon individuals in their communities, eroding their human rights, stripping them of human dignity and diminishing their hope for justice and reconciliation to prevail in Australian society.
Moved by the words of their Indigenous brothers and sisters in Christ, Assembly members were galvanised to act. They decided that a vigil of prayer and lament would show most clearly how the Uniting Church stands in solidarity with Australia’s First Peoples in their distress over the Stronger Futures legislation and other issues of discrimination.
“We’ve heard stories from people from Cape York, Arnhem Land, the Kimberley and from the APY Lands, who are feeling the effects first of all from the Intervention and then of the so-called Stronger Futures legislation,” said Prof. Dutney, flanked on Parliament’s steps by Assembly members and others wearing Indigenous solidarity ribbons of red, black and yellow.
“We’ve heard the way [these Indigenous communities] had their dignity taken away from them; their ability to make choices. We’ve also heard the stories about so-called consultation — but consultation without negotiation is not suitable for human beings.
“We’re convinced that the human rights of our brothers and sisters are being encroached upon by this legislation.”
Prof. Dutney said that treating every Aboriginal community as if it had the same culture, language, issues and problems meant that no community was being dealt with adequately.
“These are adult, responsible communities that have their structures of authority and governance that are being swept aside by this legislation.
“We have come today to pray with them, to lament with them and to do it publicly in the hope that Australian people will start to ask questions about what’s being done in our name to these Australian citizens.”
Assembly members prayed, sang and stood in silence to emphasise their solidarity with the First People of Australia and to highlight how the church mourned the discrimination and inequities these people continue to suffer.