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Monday, 06 September 2004

Stronger leadership needed for an inclusive Australia

The Uniting Church today called for real leadership on Indigenous issues and for a vote on Indigenous health at the October 9 poll.

Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said reconciliation is more than just overcoming the legacy of our history and requires practical measures and committed leadership. He said the Church was calling on all parties to recognise past wrong-doings, apologise and commit to treaty with Indigenous Australians during the course of the election.

“Foundational issues like recognition, apology and a process of treaty or negotiations on how to achieve better outcomes for Indigenous Australians are more than just symbolic. They create a framework through which practical issues can be addressed in a context of trust and dignity.

“It is only then that we can deal with the shocking poverty, ill-health and disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians,” Rev. Drayton said.

The National Administrator of the Uniting Church Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Congress, Rev. Shayne Blackman, said Australia needed to immediately follow the lead of countries like Canada and New Zealand where similar rights-based approaches had already been successfully implemented.

"The health of Indigenous people in Australia is the worst in the developed world.

"The health crisis began with colonisation and dispossession then social and economic disadvantage became entrenched. In 2004, Indigenous disadvantage continues. Indigenous infant mortality is 2.5 times higher than that of other infants and the life expectancy of adults is 53 years with no improvement since 1990 compared to non-Indigenous people whose life expectancy is 77.

"We need immediate policies to address these issues and the Uniting Church believes that an immediate injection of funding - $475 million as suggested by the AMA - and restoration of a culturally appropriate representative Indigenous voice - could turn these statistics around.

"The Australian people have the courage and integrity to work with Indigenous communities to redress this national scandal. We call on the parties to make real and binding commitments to Indigenous health and Indigenous self-determination during this election campaign," Rev. Blackman said.

Media contacts: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674