Thursday, 16 March 2017

Walking Together to Close the Gap

A statement to members on National Close the Gap Day from President Stuart McMillan and Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress Rev. Dennis Corowa.

On National Close the Gap Day we would like to reaffirm our Church’s commitment to walking together with First Peoples and encourage all Church members to join us on the journey.

As the Prime Minister has reported, we are only on track to meet one of the Close the Gap targets.

The target to close the gap on child mortality is not on track, and nor are we on track to close the gap on life expectancy. Not enough children are enrolled in early childhood education, attend school, complete their final years of education, or reach levels of reading and numeracy that help them participate as fully as possible in society.

Only 48.4% of First Peoples are employed, compared with 72.6% of the rest of the community. Suicide and incarceration rates remain very high.

Fifty years after the referendum to allow the Federal Government to make laws for the well-being of First Peoples, this situation is unacceptable.

The Uniting Church in Australia yearns for a future in which First Peoples have the same access to opportunity as any other Australian.

We would encourage all governments to co-operate to find ways to find ways to close these gaps, and to enable First Peoples to live with dignity. The gap will only close when First People have economic equality through land title or reparation.

We wholeheartedly encourage all Uniting Church people of goodwill to take up some of our upcoming opportunities to share the life of First Peoples and walk alongside them in their struggle for well-being.

Members of the NSW/ACT Synod will soon be walking on country with Bundjalung elders in northern NSW to live and learn from the wisdom of our UAICC members.

Our faith and cultural exchange program About FACE in June is another great opportunity for Uniting Church members to build relationships and shared understandings while living in Congress communities.

The focus of the President's National Ministers’ Conference in Darwin in late June will be to continue the conversations from the 14th Assembly about honouring First People as sovereign, their aspirations for treaty, and to explore further what it means for us as Second Peoples to live on stolen land.

The Uniting Church has a longstanding commitment to deepen our spiritual bond with First Peoples and we will continue that journey together with our sisters and brothers in Christ.

We give thanks to God for the covenant relationship with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.