From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC NEWS Kobia on deteriorating Aboriginal situation in
"WCC Media" <Media@wcc-coe.org>
Fri, 09 Jul 2004 17:25:00 +0200
World Council of Churches
For immediate release pu-04-33
9 July 2004
KOBIA EXPRESSES DISMAY AT DETERIORATING ABORIGINAL SITUATION IN AUSTRALIA
cf: WCC Press Release PR-04-16 of 1 July 2004
Free photos available, see below.
"The right to self-determination is an inalienable right of Australian
Aboriginals. It is unacceptable that in a democratic civilized country like
Australia, the government denies the basic rights of the original inhabitants
of the land," said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr
Samuel Kobia in his first public address in Australia.
The WCC general secretary, who began an Australian visit at Port Augusta,
South Australia, on 8 July, was welcomed by representatives of the original
owners of the land in a traditional greeting at the old Umeewarra Mission at
Responding to the welcome, Kobia said that "We stand in this land with your
permission, and we come here to express our solidarity with your struggle at
a time when the Aboriginals are facing an unprecedented crisis in Australia."
The Aboriginal leaders who spoke at the public meeting described how hard-won
state Indigenous programmes are now being sidelined by the federal
government, and how the democratically elected Indigenous voice in government
is being curtailed through legislative measures.
"A country which fought for the right to self-determination of the people in
East Timor and Iraq, which at the same time is denying the first Australians
who have been living here over 60,000 years, is a paradox," Aboriginal leader
Khysstan Wanganeen stated.
Expressing dismay about the deteriorating situation of Australian
Aboriginals, Kobia warned that "the Australian government's recent decision
to shift the Indigenous affairs and reconciliation programme from its current
form as a special department to mainstream government administration will
stall the reconciliation process."
The Australian government has introduced legislation to disband the
Aborigines' and Torres Strait Islanders' Commission (ATSIC), a decision which
Kobia called "very unfortunate". Indigenous people see this as an attempt to
silence the elected Indigenous voice.
Kobia said that, after listening to Aboriginal people, he found the way they
are treated reveals "some racist tendencies," although "he wouldn't call the
Australian people or Australia as a country racist". "In any society, you
will find individuals or some extreme organizations that would want to
continue with racist attitudes," he added.
Kobia also stressed the achievements in Australia's reconciliation process.
"There are very commendable initiatives and efforts that the Australian
people have made, both the churches and other communities." He emphasized
that he is "encouraged by the process of healing and reconciliation that has
been initiated by the churches in this country."
"The government tends to put Aboriginal self-determination into the
background," said Alwyn McKenzie, Port Augusta's ATSIC chairperson.
"Indigenous people have an inherent right to be recognized as the first
people of this country." To reach reconciliation between Indigenous and
non-Indigenous Australians, he suggested that "We must use the experience,
the wisdom and the knowledge of all Australians, working in partnership."
Accompanied by National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) president,
Rev. Prof. James Haire, NCCA general secretary, Rev. John Henderson, and WCC
Asia secretary, Dr Mathews George, Kobia visited Aboriginal elders at the
Cooinda conference centre and the Pika Wiya Aboriginal health service,
created in 1979 with a seed grant from the WCC. Later, he met with a large
number of Aboriginal people at the Port Augusta Faith Community Centre.
Kobia's programme in Australia ends on Sunday, 11 July, and includes a visit
to the Baxter refugee detention centre, opening and delivering a keynote
address at the NCCA trienniel forum in Adelaide, and meeting church leaders
from around the country.
Free high resolution photos are available at:
For further information, please contact Juan Michel, WCC media relations
officer, tel: +41 22 791 6153, mobile +41 79 507 6363, email@example.com
For more information contact:
Media Relations Office
tel: (+41 22) 791 64 21 / (+41 22) 791 61 53
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in
more than 120 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly,
which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally
inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by
general secretary Samuel Kobia from the Methodist church in Kenya.
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