Canberra (Agenzia Fides) - The Catholic Religious of Australia have paid tribute to this country’s Indigenous peoples, thanking them for their resilience and for the richness their cultures bring to Australian life while promising continued efforts at reconciliation. Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) the peak body for more than 8500 men and women Religious across Australia, also warns that unless Australia unites in efforts of reconciliation, “a poverty of spirit will afflict our entire nation”.
This statement comes from Catholic Religious Australia in recognition of the 40th anniversary (May 27) of the referendum which paved the way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to become citizens of their own country. It also marks Sorry Day (May 26 - this year, the 10th anniversary of the Bringing Them Home Report) and National Aboriginal and Islander Sunday (July 1).
These last 40 years are not just about statistics; they are faces, friends and family stories. "Statistics cannot tell the personal stories of struggle, and of joy" the statement affirms. During the last forty years Religious sisters, brothers and priests, like so many other Australians, have come to a deeper understanding of the history of our nation; the need to recognise the original owners and custodians of these lands and waters; to make a just and proper settlement; and to address the injustices of the past and the present. They commend the campaign of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission to ‘make Indigenous poverty history’ which offers practical suggestions for effective action to address the disadvantages still endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Forty years after the 1967 referendum, the life expectancy of Indigenous Australians is 17 years less than for other citizens. Land, language and culture remain under threat, and Indigenous participation in education and the labour force still remain lower than for other Australians. (K.P.) (Agenzia Fides 22/6/2007; righe 19, parole 260)