OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - The Catholic Church in Australia has called for more assistance for Aboriginal communities particularly victims of abuse

Monday, 22 May 2006

Adelaide (Agenzia Fides) - The Church in Australia has again raised its voice in support of Aboriginal Australians. The archdiocese of Adelaide has called on religious groups to do more to help indigenous communities affected by abuse and violence. In the context of human suffering, a local Church spokesperson said, “the attempts we make as a community and churches to address these problems are simply not enough”. It is necessary to intensify programmes of social, medical assistance, education and rehabilitation in view of socio-economic development and the elimination of social degrade of indigenous communities. It is a question not only of charity but also social justice, the local Church said.
The Caritas, after news in recent days of sexual abuse and violence on Aboriginal communities, called for more attention to the old question of integration in Australian society. Caritas recalled that in the past 200 years the Aboriginal people have endured tremendous suffering. According to Caritas, policies for the forcible removal of land and many thousands of children from their families as well as laws forcing segregation denying access to social welfare and fundamental human rights, have all impacted on their quality of life .
The Church in Australia has always given special attention to the situation of Aboriginal people. Recently, the recent reorganisation of the Bishops’ Conference included 12 commissions one of which will deal with Relations with Aboriginal communities .
Every year the Church organises National Reconciliation Week with a series of initiatives and events with testimony, formation meetings and reflection on the subject of reconciliation of European and Aboriginal communities recalling that “over 1,100 Aboriginal babies born prematurely or underweight, are destined to a life of health problems”. Basic healthcare and education are, according to the Bishops’ Commission, concrete expression of ‘reconciliation’.
Aboriginal people are 2.4% circa of the entire population but 16% of the population detained in prisons. They were almost exterminated in the 19th century in a series of local wars over fertile land which the natives used for hunting and the European settlers made into fields and pasture land. In the 1900 Australia’s policies towards Aboriginal people did not improve and refused to recognise their civil rights.
Up to 40 years ago Aboriginal children were taken from their parents to be raised by white families in view of integration. Only in 1967 this stolen generation policy was stopped, the Aboriginal people were recognised as full Australian citizens with all civil and political rights. At least 100,000 children were taken from their parents between 1930 and 1970, causing serious trauma individual and social.
Today in Australia there are about 460,000 Aboriginal people. Most live below the poverty line and in situations of widespread unemployment and abuse of alcohol. (Agenzia Fides 22/5/2006 righe 32 parole 335)