OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA “Take the next step” towards Aborigines: Catholic commitment in National Week for Reconciliation

Tuesday, 31 May 2005

Sydney (Fides Service) - A series of public initiatives and events, testimony, meetings of formation and reflection, artistic performances focused on reconciliation between the white community and the Aborigines characterise Catholic input for National Week for Reconciliation being held in Australia 26 May 3 June with the slogan “Take the next step”.
The Australian Catholic community through the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops Conference has promoted events to increase awareness and underline the importance of reconciliation for the country.
The social justice office of Toowoomba diocese in Queensland issued a statement focusing on the plight of Indigenous children. “We do well every year to remember the disastrous policy of breaking up Indigenous families over the past two hundred years” said Mark Copland of the Diocesan Social Justice Commission. Also the Australian Medical Association has issued guidelines for better health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children because as the Association said “More than 1,000 Indigenous children are born annually with low birth weight or prematurely”. Basic health and education is not an expression of so-called “practical reconciliation” it is an entitlement for all Australian children, the doctors affirm.
Indigenous peoples are 2.4% circa of the population but 16% of the people in prison. Aborigines were almost exterminated in the 19th century in a serious of local conflicts over land where the native peoples hunted and the settlers used for cultivation and pastures. In the 20th century Australia’s policy did not improve, refusing civil rights to the native people. Until about thirty years ago the government separated Indigenous children from their patents to bring them up in white families and be integrated into the white society. Only in 1967 this policy was stopped and Indigenous peoples were granted full rights. About 100,000 children were removed from their families under government policy. Today there are about 460,000 Aborigines in Australia and most of them live below the poverty line and many are unemployed and prone to alcohol abuse.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 31/5/2005 righe 32 parole 345)