Statement on the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee report on Stronger Futures
The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee has today released its report on the “Stronger Futures” Bills.
Graeme Mundine, Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Sydney Archdiocese said, “It is disappointing that the Committee has comprehensively ignored a wide range of concerns raised by a significant number of submissions and evidence from Northern Territory Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal organisations, human rights groups, welfare groups, churches and others.
“The overwhelming message from Aboriginal peoples is that they do not want this legislation. Aboriginal peoples want to be treated with respect, dignity and be full participants in creating and implementing sustainable solutions to overcome disadvantage plaguing communities. The Government consistently spins the line that the Intervention has delivered impressive outcomes. In fact, what little verifiable evidence there is shows the Intervention has not delivered tangible and sustainable results and has not substantially improved life for Aboriginal peoples. Far from it, measures such as increasing suicides and rising rates in imprisonment show a very different picture. The Government’s dogged determination to plough on, in collusion with the Opposition, despite the lack of evidence is astounding.
“The so called Stronger Futures legislation will further weaken and disempower communities. Aboriginal peoples have solutions, they have ideas and they know what stronger futures would look like for them. They need to be heard and they need appropriate support and long term commitment. They do not need legislation that is based on punitive measures and returns us to the days of Protectionism and Assimilation. This legislation will give the Minister inordinate power over the day to day lives of Aboriginal peoples.
“Further, the entire premise of the legislation is based on an erroneous perception that Aboriginal cultures are inferior, inadequate and that Aboriginal peoples must deny their cultures to be successful in the modern era. Communities in the Northern Territory still live traditionally, still speak their languages and still have their homelands. This should be celebrated, but in fact, this legislation endangers all of that. Rather than build on the strengths of Aboriginal cultures it will fracture and diminish and is based on a deficit model of Aboriginal development. Aboriginal peoples, not Governments, must be the ones to decide how they want to live in the 21st Century. Governments’ role is to enable those choices.
“It beggars belief that the Parliament can be pushing through such damaging legislation while at the same time spruik about Constitutional recognition and reconciliation. You cannot continuously trample on people’s rights and then expect to Close the Gap or be reconciled.
“The Government should go back to the drawing board. They need to move away from imposing greater controls and punitive measures. They should engage Aboriginal people with respect, as equals and seek to create empowering relationships. Stronger Futures is destined to join a long list of failed policies that tear Aboriginal communities apart and further fracture already strained relationships with Government,” Graeme Mundine concluded.