OCEANIA/AUSTRALIA - National Reconciliation Week: 40 years since referendum gave citizenship to indigenous Australians, full integration still long way off

Monday, 28 May 2007

Sydney (Agenzia Fides) - Some progress has been made in forty years but much remains to be done for full integration between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians say indigenous leaders, heads of civil organisations, Catholic and Anglican Bishops and lay Christians. May 27 is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum in which 90% of Australians voted to remove clauses in the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Indigenous Australians. The referendum also gave the Australian Federal Government the power to make laws on behalf of Indigenous Australians
“However reconciliation is often an empty word”, says Ravina Waldren, lay coordinator in the archdiocese of Brisbane, because many Australians are not interested in the difficult conditions of indigenous communities still living on the margins of society.
From 27 May to 3rd June Australia celebrates National Reconciliation Week to asses a process of social and cultural integration.
Some indigenous Australians have achieved respect certain rights education, social services but most still live in poverty according to the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, adding that many social issues still need to be addressed such as access to equal opportunities.
The Commission hopes that Pentecost 2007, with a call to unity in diversity will mark a turning point and it calls on political authorities and the whole of Australian society to improve indigenous communities' living conditions, guaranteeing essential social services, education, help reduce infant mortality rate and eradicate abuse of drugs and alcohol.
In the 40 years Christians in Australia have worked hard to help indigenous Australians obtain recognition of rights. Dioceses, associations, religious congregations promote social, professional, cultural and spiritual development of indigenous citizens. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/5/2007 righe 26 parole 268)