July 09, 2012
Legislate for Independence not Control
The Under 60 year old Sisters of Saint Joseph from Peru, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia, many of whom live, work and are in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, came together in Sydney last week to network and celebrate life together.
These sisters felt compelled to speak in support of the overwhelming number of despairing Aboriginal people and communities who have pleaded for the last five years for advocacy with regard to the Northern Territory Intervention.
The situation now for many Northern Territory Aborigines is unbearable. After the passing of the Stronger Futures Legislation one respected Aboriginal woman wrote to the sisters: “the passing of the bill for another ten years of the Intervention is a blow to the head…feels like I’m buried in the sand to the neck and am being kicked in the head once again.”
It is a travesty of human rights in Australia when government legislation causes the most vulnerable people – the First Peoples, to be left with little or no control over their lives, their land, their language, their means of providing for their families and ultimately their future. The lessons learned from the infliction of social control by government and church authorities on missions and reserves are being ignored. The philosophical underpinning of Stronger Futures repeats the mistakes of the past.
With Northern Territory Elders and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples we call on the Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin to allow the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights to examine all control measures proposed in the Stronger Futures Bill.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph are united with Aboriginal Elders Reverend Doctor Djiniyini Gondarra and Rosalie Kunnoth Monks who say that stronger futures for Aboriginal Peoples and communities is only possible with self- determination, respect and genuine partnership.
As a follow-up step to this call from the Josephite Conference, Josephites around Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Brazil and Ireland will join together on Humanitarian Sunday (20th August) to hold a prayer vigil as part of our witness to this most Josephite of calls, as articulated by Mary MacKillop herself: ‘Seek first the poorest and most neglected of God’s kingdom.’ (Mary MacKillop1900).
Our focus for this vigil will be the imperative to stand in solidarity with the first peoples and last people of our lands. We stand with the Indigenous peoples of Australia, and their call at this time for self-determination, respect and genuine partnership. We will pray also with the last peoples in our lands – asylum seekers and refugees, fleeing for their lives and looking for sanctuary in countries able to offer protection and hospitality.
You are invited to join with us in this vigil. Details and a prayer ritual will be distributed within the next week.