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“The 2004 Budget will contribute to improving infrastructure for high quality aged care in the future. Our aged care system must provide needs based access for all Australians; but especially pensioners and people in regional and remote Australia” said Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director of UnitingCare Australia.

“Removing the five year limit on accommodation charges for new high care residents is a welcome move. Also welcome is the one off payment of $3,500 per resident which will help fund the capital improvements required to meet 2008 building guidelines.”

“Modest increases to recurrent subsidies should be treated with caution as they are still linked to an indexation tool that does not fully reflect the real cost of providing quality care. Instead of fixing the faulty indexation tool, the Government has opted for conditional adjustment payments. The conditions attached to these payments are unclear and services will not be able to access most of the money until well into the future.”

“Supplementary funding for dementia and palliative care would be helpful but is not due to come on line until 2006.”

“While improving capital investment can support quality care, the quality of life for residents is actually based on caring and supportive relationships. More attractive wages and better avenues for career development are urgently needed to attract and retain qualified caring staff.”

“The burden of paperwork and reporting needs to be reduced to ensure that staff have more time to spend with residents. While the Budget allocates some funding to streamline administration, other measures such as a new system for resident classifications could increase paperwork in the short term” said Lin Hatfield Dodds.

“The additional viability supplement for rural & remote areas will provide $2.3m in the 2004-5 year. Whether this is sufficient to guarantee access for older people in the country and the bush remains to be seen.”

“As structural ageing begins to bite, providing care at home needs to become a realistic option for more Australians. While the Government has announced a doubling of the places offered in the community, this care must be properly funded so that the level of care is of a consistently high quality. UnitingCare Australia is concerned that the Government has still not released the outcome of the Community Care Review.”

“UnitingCare Australia welcomes the release of the Hogan Pricing Review. We will examine the report closely to see whether the Budget delivers on all recommendations of this long awaited report”


Contacts:
Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director, UnitingCare Australia: (bh) 02 6290 2160 (m) 0408 402 222


The Uniting Church today condemned the Federal Government’s decision to abolish ATSIC saying it will bring to an end reconciliation in Australia.
“The Federal Government’s decision to kill off ATSIC and replace it with nothing more than an advisory committee demonstrates its total disregard for the well being of the Indigenous peoples of this nation” the Rev Shayne Blackman, National Administrator of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, said today. "This is a return to the paternalism of colonial days when Indigenous people had no say in their future and suffered terribly from the government’s desire to assimilate.” “We do not deny there is a need for the reform of ATSIC. Any federal body must both meet the needs of Indigenous people and provide Indigenous input into government policy. But its abolition without adequate representative replacement spells an end to any process of Reconciliation in this country. Indigenous communities will be further marginalised and disadvantaged with no possibility of a unified, national voice.” “Mainstreaming will also further dilute the ability of agencies to address the needs of Indigenous peoples. It is the strong opinion of the international community that nations with formal mechanisms that respect Indigenous self-determination and rights achieve far better health and socio-economic outcomes.”

"By drowning Indigenous people in the ‘mainstream’ health, community and education systems, the circumstances of the Indigenous peoples of this country can only get worse.”
"Contrary to the views of Senator Vanstone, the delivery of culturally relevant outcomes that enable Indigenous peoples to maintain their identity and integrity is not the violent segregation of apartheid. That is a silly comparison that only serves to feed the racist paranoia of many in our country.”

"We would hope the people of Australia will protest loudly at this attack on Indigenous people and their right to self determination and human rights,” Mr Blackman said.

 


Media contact: Rev Shayne Blackman on 0418 784 463 or (O7) 4773 5077

Australia's Muslims, Jews and Christians Call for "positive choices for peace".

Representatives of Australia's peak Christian, Islamic and Jewish bodies met in Sydney today reaffirming their joint commitment to live together in peace and respect in Australia.

In the light of heightened tensions in the Middle East and the possible export of tensions and violence to societies such as Australia, the Dialogue on the subject of "Peace" was both timely and valuable.

The Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims and Jews, which is a joint initiative of the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry met at Sydney's Zetland Mosque today, after being formally launched twelve months ago.

The representatives of the three peak bodies reaffirmed their commitment to the peace and the well-being of all Australians. The delegates stated jointly "We call on all Australians to make positive choices for peace and to refuse to resolve issue by the use of violence.

In light of our commitment to live in peace, no acts of violence or attacks against ethnic or religious communities are acceptable in our community.

We should instead take positive actions, building on the strong relationships we already have. The 30 young people who participated in the recent 'Journey of Promise' initiative, sponsored by the ANDCMJ and supported by the Federal Government's 'Living in Harmony' initiative, are symbols of hope for the future of relationships in Australia. We should learn from their example and continue building a community of peace and hope."


Further Information:
Jeremy Jones, President, Executive Council of Australian Jewry 0411 536 436
John Henderson, General Secretary National Council of Churches 0419 224 935
Amjad Mehboob, CEO, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils 0408 234 434

 

Uniting Church leaders today expressed great concern at the imminent deportation of Iranian asylum seekers. The National President of the Uniting Church, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said, “How can Australia, in good conscience, force people back to the Middle East when it is clearly not a safe place? Iran, itself is not safe.

“Last week the President of Iran admitted as much in saying that he had failed to institute democratic reforms. It is clear that the Iranian Government cannot guarantee their willingness or ability to offer effective protection to people in their country.”

The Age newspaper has reported that up to 14 Iranian refugees will be forcibly returned to Iran as early as next Saturday (24 August). The National Assembly of the Uniting Church , at its July meeting, condemned the Australian Government for its plans to forcibly deport people to Iran where their safety cannot be guaranteed.

The National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev. Elenie Poulos said, “The Government’s system of processing refugee claims has been shown to be flawed. We cannot be sure that refugees have not slipped through the net. Even if people’s claims do fall outside of the strict UN definition, they may still have a need for our protection for other reasons.” “ The Minister for Immigration has been unwilling to release the Memorandum of Understanding he signed with the Iranian Government. That forced deportations should be conducted in such secrecy is a serious indictment of the Government’s commitment to be open government. While Iran may have requested non-disclosure of the document, Australians expect more from our democratic system,” Rev. Poulos said.

“That the Australian Government would return people to a country so close to a war zone, and to a place where persecution and torture are a fact of life, is an abrogation of our responsibility as decent people not to endanger peoples’ lives,” Rev. Drayton said.

“The Uniting Church in Australia calls on the Federal Government to halt plans for forced deportations and make alternative arrangements for every Iranian currently held in immigration detention. We do not want the blood of innocent people on our hands.”


Media Contact: Kim Cain 0419 373 123; (02) 8267 4239

 

In Canberra today, the Uniting Church called for a national Anti-Poverty Agreement. “Poverty is not just about a lack of income,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds, the National Director of UnitingCare Australia.

“It is about lacking the means to live.”

"Australians think a ‘fair go for all’ is important. But sadly this is not the reality in our country. Poverty affects one in nine Australians including hundreds of thousands of children.”

"We urge the Government to take seriously its obligations to build a fair and inclusive Australia,” said Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of Uniting Justice.

 “We need a coordinated federal and state strategy, based on targets that can be evaluated, that addresses the causes and symptoms of poverty.”

" Only such an integrated approach will help to end the suffering of Australia’s most disadvantaged people and build a just and peaceful society.”


 Media Contacts:
Lin Hatfield Dodds National Director UnitingCare Australia ph: 0408 402 222
Rev. Elenie Poulos National Director UnitingJustice Australia ph: 0417 431 853

The Four Corners report on the conditions at Woomera detention centre (19 May) has finally exposed the horrific consequences of the Federal Government’s policy of mandatory detention.

Leaders of the Uniting Church in Australia believe that it is now time to act. A full judicial inquiry must be held. Two years ago, the national president of the Uniting Church, Rev. Prof. James Haire, called for an independent inquiry into Australia’s detention centres. That need has now been fully exposed.

“The Federal Government, in line with its policy of deterrence, has succeeded in building one of the harshest detention regimes anywhere in the world,” said Professor Haire.

“It is the cruellest irony that among those who have suffered so much in our detention centres were so many people fleeing regimes against which we have waged war. We said we were fighting for their liberation. We could have helped those few who came to us seeking freedom but we chose to add to their misery and compound their oppression.”

The National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev. Elenie Poulos, said, “The evidence obtained by Four Corners shows that where these cruel regimes failed, the Australian Government has succeeded.”

“It has succeeded in finally breaking the spirits of people who, until their arrival here, had managed to survive conditions we can’t even imagine. It has succeeded in destroying all their hopes for better lives. And with complete contempt for people’s human rights, it has succeeded in abusing people’s dignity and destroying their mental and physical health.”

“The responsibility for such shocking situations lies squarely with the Government.”

Professor Haire said: “The Uniting Church in Australia supports the call for a full judicial inquiry into the conditions and management of all immigration detention centres in Australia.

“There must be no room for cover-ups. It is time that all Australians knew the truth about the horrors that have been perpetrated in our name.”


Media contact: Kim Cain, Media Liaison 0419 373 123
James Haire and Elenie Poulos are available for comment

 

“The books may be balanced, but many of those most in need have been left further behind by this budget,” said Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director of UnitingCare Australia.

“It is tragic that a budget focussed on security delivers nothing for those who are least secure.”

“We live in an increasingly divided society. Real security is about having a roof over your head. Real security is about having a job. Real security is about feeling that you belong. Security for all requires a fair go for everyone. Poverty and social exclusion hurt us all.”

“Addressing poverty and encouraging full participation requires sustained commitment. The longer we ignore these challenges the harder they will be to address.”

“While the Budget contains some much needed extra funding for valuable programs such as Community Aged Care Packages, the Home and Community Care Program, and the Special Needs Subsidy Scheme for children with high support needs, the long term effects of the changes to Medicare remain unclear and there are no major initiatives to build stronger families and communities.”

Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice Australia, said, “This Budget represents a missed opportunity to put forward a vision for a fair and inclusive society. It is more about being seen to be tough on people on income support than addressing the real issues. It is mean-spirited and demonstrates the Government’s lack of interest in Australians living on the edges.”


Media contacts:
Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director UnitingCare Australia ph: 0408 402 222
Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director UnitingJustice Australia ph: 0417 431 853

The leader of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Prof. James Haire, today said the Australian government had to take seriously its responsibilities to rescue the tiny island nation of Tuvalu as it faced the prospect being swept into the Pacific Ocean due to climate change.

Recently returned from Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu, Prof. Haire said: "Tuvalu is the world's smallest nation and it is at risk of literally being drowned by rising sea waters caused by global warming. Yet, Australia has insisted it will not make special provision for the acceptance of its residents should this happen.

"In fact through the Minister for Immigration, Mr Ruddock, Australia has said 'they will have to apply to come to Australia just like anyone else'.

"Australia can become an ark for the 11,000 Tuvaluans who desperately need to know they have a future. The best thing Australia could do is to help prevent their drowning by signing the Kyoto protocol; next we can assure them they can 'call Australia home' if the ocean does swamp their islands.

"Australia is by far the largest polluting nation in the South Pacific. We are therefore, a prime cause of this problem now being imposed on a host of small Pacific island states, and our response so far has been lacking in generosity, to put it mildly.

"The law of the sea demands that people left drowning must be rescued. The same principal must surely apply to our neighbours as their country slowly but surely sinks into the sea.

"Already one island in the Tuvalu group has disappeared off the face of the map.

"Australia has lolled around like a tourist on a li-lo in the Pacific on issues like the Kyoto protocol, and has all but ignored the pleas of the Tuvalu people whose homeland is drowning.

"It would help greatly if Australia would sign up to the Kyoto protocol, and therefore make a real contribution to secure the future existence of Tuvalu. But if the worse comes to worst we as the regional power must generously accept the people of Tuvalu into our nation."

Professor Haire has had three meetings with the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Mr Saufatu Sopoanga, whilst on a tour of Pacific nations. The Uniting Church in Australia has long term historical relations with the Church of Tuvalu, (through its Congregational Church background) which makes up about 95 percent of the population.


Media contact:
Kim Cain, Media Liaison 0419 373 123
James Haire is available for media interviews

 

The Defence Force Chaplaincy Committee meeting in Adelaide today has given its unequivocal support to its chaplains who have been deployed in connection with the war in Iraq. It asks all Uniting Church members, regardless of their views on the rights and wrongs of this deployment, to support their chaplains and all Defence Force members and their families with their prayers and goodwill.

Neale Michael
Rev Convenor

 

The national leader of the Uniting Church in Australia today expressed deep grief and sorrow at the announcement by Prime Minister John Howard, that he was committing Australia troops to a war in Iraq.

“Today is a day of grief and sorrow because the announcement of war is an admission of failure. Yet another new century begins with bloodshed and destruction as a means of solving our problems, said Rev Professor James Haire..

“Jesus urged his followers to be peacemakers. He spoke in favour of love, justice and hope for the world.

“This war is wrong. It will not produce peace. It will lead to untold suffering for innocent people in and around Iraq. We must remember that the Iraqi people have had no say in who rules them, or the actions of their government, but their names will make up a large part of the causality list of this war.

I fear that this action will set off renewed Middle East tensions that could take another 30 years to resolve.

One outcome will be increased terrorism against innocent people extending to Indonesia and South-East Asia. The road for religious reconciliation between moderate Christians and Muslims has become much, much harder.

“Two months ago Mr Howard said a second United Nations resolution was necessary before a strike on Iraq. Today he says there is already enough justification to launch an attack. These mixed signals do not help.

“If the USA, UK and Australia truly believe in justice for oppressed peoples they would have done more for the Iraqi population much sooner, and would have acted against other oppressive regimes in places like Burma, China, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

We will continue to pray for the safety of all caught up in this conflict including our troops and chaplains. I urge, still, that Australians pray for peace in Iraq, and that God will truly bless the peacemakers.


Media Contact: Kim Cain, Media Liaison 0419 373 12
James Haire is available for media interviews