Commission for Ecumenism & Interfaith Dialogue

World Council of Churches visit to shed light on Indigenous human rights


The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) has welcomed the World Council of Churches' (WCC) decision to send an international ecumenical delegation to visit the Indigenous Peoples of Australia from 12-17 September.

The visit is in response to an invitation extended by the NCCA with the view to shed light on the human rights situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to show solidarity with the Indigenous people who feel their voices are not heard. The focus of this visit will be the impact of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER).

According to NCCA General Secretary, Rev Tara Curlewis said there was an urgent need to examine the impact of the NTER on Aboriginal people.

"We welcome the arrival of an international and neutral team to listen, learn and bear witness to the situation for Aboriginal people in the NT," Rev Curlewis said.

The invitation to the WCC was extended following a forum held in 2009 by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) of the NCCA.

The forum brought together Indigenous Church leaders from around Australia to discuss the Australian Government’s NTER, with the aim of showing solidarity with Aboriginal people in the NT, and formulating a common response and plan for action.

A key recommendation arising from the forum was to ask the NCCA to extend an invitation to the WCC to send a Living Letters team to visit the Northern Territory.

Living Letters are small ecumenical teams visiting a country to listen, learn, share approaches and challenges in overcoming violence and in peace making, and to pray together for peace in the community and in the world.

A Living Letters team previously visited Australia in 1981 to assess the situation for Aborigines. The team travelled around the country for three weeks and met with a wide number of individuals, communities and organisations.

According to the NCCA, the 1981 report of this visit reflected the concerns, hopes, dreams and aspirations of Aboriginal people as heard by the Living Letters team, and gave guidance to the Churches and hope to Aboriginal people.

"The independent and objective points of view were valuable to take to Government to highlight what was observed and the areas where Australia needed to do better," Rev Curlewis said.

"From this our relations with Indigenous people have improved with better co-operation and representation within Churches. It is our hope and prayer that a similar outcome can be achieved by a contemporary visit, particularly in relation to the NTER.

"The NCCA and NATSIEC have consistently expressed concern, along with Church leaders and other organisations, since the inception of the NTER. However, despite legitimate concerns being raised by many groups the NTER has continued unabated."

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