OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - Work, study, and rights: more space for aborigenes in Australian society

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Sydney (Agenzia Fides) – Australia's society and government are taking important steps in favor of aboriginal minorities. There have been comforting signs in the last few months, which have been applauded by the many civil and religious organizations working towards the integration of Australian indigenous peoples into the social fabric of the nation.
The first step is reserved to the theme of employment and seeks to help the youth emerge from a life of crime and marginalization. In recent days, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, along with representatives from among the community of Australian aborigines and several other important figures in the country gathered in Sydney to sign the most ambitious employment agreement for indigenous youth in the history of Australia.
The Australian Employment Covenant establishes a mediation between the federal government, the indigenous communities, and the businesses, and will assign 50,000 jobs in the private sector to aborigines, as a “tutor program” to aid in their integration. The pact hopes to free the youth from the so-called “welfare spiral,” that keeps aborigines in a passive state, considering them only as the receivers of contributions in the form of assistance and charity.
According to promoters, this marks a change for all Australians and will promote a culture of “learning to learn” in which individual efforts are rewarded.
In addition, the government has announced a 10 million-Euro investment in the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, to offer 2,000 scholarships and increase the number of aboriginal students in the higher level secondary schools. The right to study and access to education are other essential elements for an authentic integration and a real participation on the part of the aboriginal communities in the social, political, and cultural life of Australia.
These initiatives have been supported by the Catholic Church, in religious congregations, and in the civil associations that have been working for years in this area.
There are currently 517,000 aborigines in Australia (2.5% of the entire population), who have a lower life expectancy than the other ethnic origins present, i.e. 59.4 years versus 76.6 for men; 64.8 versus 82 for women. The lack of access to healthcare has a harsh effect on their children, who suffer from malnutrition. Alcoholism, drugs, and unemployment are the main problems in the population which is largely located in rural settings. The Church in Australia has made agreements with the government on the building of Catholic schools in indigenous communities, so as to end illiteracy and their lack of integration in the workplace. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 5/11/2008)