“The Uniting Church condemns the Federal Government’s insult to Reconciliation Week by choosing yesterday to introduce the bill to abolish ATSIC without replacement,” Shayne Blackman, National Administrator of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, the Indigenous body of the Uniting Church said today.
“May 27 is the first day of Reconciliation Week and celebrates the successful 1967 referendum granting citizenship rights to Indigenous peoples,” he said.
“For the Howard Government to put before the House of Representatives a bill which denies Indigenous people a voice and a say in our own affairs is a sign that this Government has total disregard of the reconciliation process in this nation.”
“We call on the Labor Party, the Greens, the Democrats and the Independent to block this bill in the Senate and demonstrate their commitment to reconciliation and the Indigenous peoples of Australia.
“While we have concerns with the current ATSIC structure, ATSIC must remain until an appropriate and Indigenous approved representative structure at national and regional levels as been put in place. They must not let this bill pass,” Mr Blackman said.
Media contacts: Rev Shayne Blackman on 0418 784 463 or (07) 4773 5077
Gavin Melvin, Senior Communications Officer, National Assembly on 0417 416 674
Leaders of the Uniting Church in Australia are calling on the Government to immediately release children and their families from detention and implement all the recommendations of the report from the Human Rights Commission Inquiry into Children in Detention.
“The report from the Inquiry into Children in Detention confirms what we have always known”, said Rev Dr Dean Drayton, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.
“The Government’s policies in this area have lacked compassion and perpetrate abuse upon the most vulnerable of people. This is not the Australia that we want.”
Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice said, “Instead of caring for children as precious individuals, we have robbed them of their childhood and stripped them of hope. Jesus would weep.”
The Uniting Church has been calling for an end to the Government’s inhumane detention policy for many years. We have seen how it destroys the lives of both children and adults.
The report confirms that we have breached our international obligations but we have also breached our moral obligations to care for and protect people in need.”
Rev Drayton said, “We must immediately release all children and their families from detention and change our policies to ensure that no more children are ever subjected to such harm in our name.”
Media information contact:
Rev. Elenie Poulos 0417.431.853
Rev. Dr Drayton is also available for comment
“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”
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."
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
The Uniting Church today expressed its support for greater choice in Government maternity payments for all mothers.
UnitingCare Australia’s National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said yesterday’s debate in Parliament about lump sum maternity payments to young mothers had missed the point.
“The suggestion that lump sum payments will encourage young women to have children is flawed."
“The experience of UnitingCare providers across Australia is that young women enter relationships seeking the support and comfort which is often missing from their home lives.”
“While these relationships often lead to pregnancy they are almost never planned. Across our range of national programmes you don’t find women who would choose to fall pregnant to access a $3000 payment,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.
“There is not one right way of making this payment to mothers and any maternity payment policy should provide flexibility and choice.”
“For some women, accessing a lump sum will help with the major up front costs associated with having a baby, and for others who might be vulnerable or financially inexperienced fortnightly payments backed up with financial planning support would be more appropriate." “We believe in giving mothers flexibility and choice in how they access these payments and in ensuring they provide direct assistance to the child.”
“Political leaders need to recognise this will not happen unless mothers have choice in how they access payments.”
Media contact: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communications Officer, Uniting Church National Assembly – 0417 416 474
Contacts: Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director, UnitingCare Australia: (bh) 02 6290 2160 (m) 0408 402 222
Stronger commitment from the Federal government is needed if Australia is to be a nation which offers opportunities for all.
According to UnitingCare Australia National Director, Ms Lin Hatfield Dodds, ‘Australia is still a nation in which many people living with disabilities experience financial hardship and limited opportunities. People living with disabilities must be given a chance to live well within our communities.’
‘The Federal Government’s disability employment package will help some of Australia’s most vulnerable workers. It will also go some way towards assisting supported employment services experiencing pressure under the Government’s disability employment reforms.’
‘However, it is unclear whether the additional $99 million will be enough and whether ‘targeted support’ to be offered to workers whose productivity is low but whose vulnerability is high is adequate.’
‘Also, access to open employment agencies must be improved to meet the high demand.’
UnitingCare Australia welcomes the boost in assistance for carers and recognition of the diversity of situations in which care is given signaled in this year’s budget. It also welcomes the enhanced access to Auslan interpreting services funded in the budget.
However, the Australian government must show stronger commitment to people with disabilities, their families and carers. Unmet need still hasn’t been adequately addressed and is growing.
Careful planning focused on the needs of people with disabilities and cross-portfolio resource sharing is required to address the growing number of Australia’s ageing population with disabilities.
According to Ms Lin Hatfield Dodds, ‘Australia needs a policy framework backed up with resources that will enable people with disabilities, their families and friends to live a decent life.’
Lin Hatfield Dodds, National Director, UnitingCare Australia: (bh) 02 6290 2160 (m) 0408 402 222
In a time of violence Australia must lead the way for peace.
The Uniting Church is concerned that in response to terrorism, defence and security are becoming synonymous with the idea that violence is acceptable.
The President of the Uniting Church, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said that the language used by our leaders, of ‘hunting them down’, of ‘long and bloody battles’, is the language of a nation which has lost its way.
“What the Church seeks from the leaders of our nation is a vision which takes us beyond fear and towards hope – the hope that peace is possible,” Rev. Drayton said.
“As Christians, we believe in God who is on the side of all humankind. We must take seriously Jesus’ command to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’.
“This is why the Church does not support aggression, retaliation, or people using one violent act to justify other violent acts. Complex issues require considered responses, even when they manifest themselves in dramatic and threatening forms.
“Extending love and prayers to those who treat us badly isn’t always easy. It can be difficult enough to respond with love when our family or friends upset us, let alone when we see extreme injustices or cruelty inflicted on others. The desire to prevent perpetrators of violence from repeating their crimes can make violence appear as the appropriate and necessary response. But violence will never bring an end to violence. Only peacemaking will end violence.
“Peacemaking is hard work. It takes patience and a great deal of courage, but the alternatives currently being offered will only promise further despair, hatred, fear and death,” Rev. Drayton said.
Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice, said that Australia must find ways to break the cycle of violence rather than give in to it.
“An act of terrorism is not only a criminal act but an attack on humanity. Terrorists must be brought to justice, but we should never gloat at their death. It has been shocking to hear our nation’s leaders express delight at someone being shot dead, regardless of who they are, and shocking to hear their support for the death penalty in other countries.
“The methods we use to end terrorism and the society we create in the process will be the legacy we leave to our children. We cannot afford to abandon the hard won systems and institutions of international law and diplomacy.
“Whenever we commit violence in response to terrorist acts, the terrorists win. In setting aside justice and proclaiming the way of peace as too hard we give in to fear and condemn our world to a violent future.
“We must catch the perpetrators of terrorism and bring them to trial for their crimes against humanity. We must certainly work to disempower terrorist groups throughout the world. This work includes building respect and understanding between all peoples and encouraging respect for human rights world-wide. It includes the provision of good and appropriate development aid, focussing especially on education in the communities in which terrorists find fertile ground.
“This election, if our national leaders are serious about ending terrorism, they should stop talking of war and pre-emptive strikes and instead commit to defending and securing Australia’s future by prioritising our support for local peace-building programs throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
“The Uniting Church in Australia is just one institution with experience in such programs. It is the only long-term solution to terrorism and it is the only sure way to peace,” Rev. Poulos said.
Reverend Dr Dean Drayton, 0400 354 237
Reverend Elenie Poulos, 0417 431 853
Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
The Uniting Church believes that it is time for the issue of global poverty to make a splash in this election campaign. “We do our country’s future no good while we continue to play around the edges of ending global poverty,” Uniting Church President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said today.
“As a thriving nation, Australia must be a responsible global citizen that looks out for those countries most in need.”
Rev. Drayton said Australia had a good record when it came to overseas aid and development but was in danger of jeopardising it with its response to debt relief and low levels of aid and development funding. He urged politicians to commit to do more, especially in our own region.
“In a world where 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day, 113 million children do not attend school and 11 million die prematurely each year, Australia needs to recognise that security cannot be found by blindly pursing our own economic agenda and closing ourselves off from the world’s pain.
“We have a responsibility to use some of our wealth and prosperity to help those countries ravaged by war, natural disaster, endemic poverty and unsustainable levels of foreign debt. It’s appalling that so many impoverished countries are forced to spend more on servicing their foreign debt than they do on services and basic necessities for their own people.
“The Government needs to recognise that there is little point in giving aid and development funds when debt repayments swallow up any revenue and long-term economic benefit generated by that funding.
“We call on all political parties to commit Australia to cancelling the unpayable component of debt in countries like the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Iraq, Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh. These debts cannot be paid without long-term harm to the well being of those nations,” Rev. Drayton said.
Uniting International Mission National Director, Rev. Bill Fischer, said the Church’s decades of experience delivering government aid and privately funded development projects in the Asia-Pacific region has shown the importance of meeting our promises to fight international poverty.
“In September 2000, Australia was one of 191 United Nations members that signed the Millennium Development Goals which outlined specific and achievable ways to eradicate poverty and make development a reality for those in the poorest nations on earth.
“Part of our commitment was a ten-year pledge to commit 0.7 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product to aid and development. The Australian Government has failed to live up to its promise. In 2001 and 2002 only 0.25 per cent was spent and there is no sign of any improvement in the future.
“In the face of the huge need we must rise above our economic self-interest. There can be no security for Australia while so many millions of people continue to live in poverty throughout the world,” Rev. Fischer said.
Media contacts: Reverend Bill Fischer, 0408 448 801
Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
The Uniting Church today expressed regret and sorrow to the children who suffered neglect and abuse while in institutional care provided by the Uniting Church and its agencies during the last century.
"On behalf of the Uniting Church and our agencies, I apologise unreservedly for any physical, psychological or social harm that might have occurred," National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said.
“I deeply regret that some children were let down while in the care of the Uniting Church and former Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches.”
Rev. Drayton said the recent Senate Inquiry into Children in Institutional Care highlighted a number of cases where children suffered at the hands of caregivers.
“The Inquiry painted a disturbing picture of life for many young people who lived in institutional care. The Uniting Church through its agencies managed a number of these facilities and sadly, some did not provide the love, nurturing and care that the children in them so rightly deserved.
“The Inquiry highlighted the flaws in institutional care models and the need to ensure they are never repeated,” Rev. Drayton said.
“The Uniting Church, through our family and community services networks, has developed new models for providing care and services to children. The Church is committed to ensuring that children and families receive the best facilities and care possible and we are constantly working to improve them.
“The Senate Inquiry reminds everybody involved in delivering services and care to children that we all need to work together so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
“The Uniting Church welcomes the Inquiry and its recommendations – they provide a basis on which Governments at all levels and care providers may move forward together by acknowledging past wrongs and addressing them appropriately. We are committed to working with government to respond to the issues raised during the Inquiry,” Rev. Drayton said.
This statement was endorsed by the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia and the Moderators of the Synods of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Synod.
Rev. Allan Kuchler Mr. Jim Mein Rev. George Woodward
Moderator of Queensland Moderator of NSW Moderator of the Northern Synod
Rev. Dr Graham Humphris Rev. Sue Gormann Rev. Gemmel Sherwood
Moderator of South Australia Moderator of Victoria and Tasmania Moderator of Western Australia
Media contact: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
Flexible, affordable child care should be a priority of the next Federal Government to ensure all families are able to balance the needs of work and family life.
Uniting Church National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said the Church wanted to see a child-centred approach to children’s services that focuses on what is in the best interest of children and recognised their developmental, spiritual and social needs.
“Family friendly policies have been a key issue for both major parties during the campaign, yet none have given a real commitment to making child care more accessible.
“Access to child care is a major part of ensuring we have cohesive families. More and more families need to use child care to balance work and family commitments but so far we’ve only had passing commitments from all parties that they will make child care more available,” Rev. Drayton said.
Rev. Drayton said families deserved real answers on how each of the major parties would ensure child care is more affordable, within close proximity, and available to all families at the times they need it.
“Without clear details of how they will make child care more accessible and affordable, promises of extra places are empty promises,” he said.
UnitingCare Australia National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said the UnitingCare network has witnessed the growing shortage of centre-based child care places now available to working families.
“While both sides of politics pledge more government funded before and after school places and in-home care this is simply playing at the edges. The real answer must focus on the growing demand from working families for centre-based care, which receives no direct Federal Government operational assistance.
“UnitingCare’s not-for-profit centre-based care providers are facing an on-going battle to recruit and retain staff, pay wage costs – which account for around 80 per cent of our running costs - and keep fees at an affordable level for families.
“The stringent regulatory standards required and our focus on providing quality care means it is imperative our centres recruit professionally trained staff. Unfortunately, the low award wages offered to child care workers have made the profession unattractive and there are now widespread staff shortages.
“We struggle to fill vacancies in existing centres, let alone find the staff needed to consider opening more centres to meet the growing demand for places,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.
Ms Hatfield Dodds said simply increasing Federal Government rebates or offering free care to families was not the answer.
“Increasing the CCB rebate means parents will get more back after paying their child care fees - it won’t help meet the costs of paying staff wages and it will do nothing to help attract more staff into the sector. The Federal Government needs to consider training and wage subsidies to attract more staff to child care. It is only then that providers will be able to attract the high quality staff that are needed to expand existing centres or open new ones. Without this, the promise of more places will be a very empty one for Australian families.”
Media contacts: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
Lin Hatfield Dodds, UnitingCare Australia, 0408 402 222
The Uniting Church today called on political leaders to stop driving a wedge between public and private schools and focus on what really matters in education - quality and lifelong learning.
National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said both parties had dished out election sweeteners during the last few weeks but neither had recognised the need to support all students in all schools.
“The hand outs being offered by both parties lack a vision for the education of future generations. They focus on funding to particular types of schools and not on how we ensure that a high quality education is available to all children.
“They are driven by short-term political gain and do not address the key question of how we make Australia a progressive and highly educated nation.
“All schools must build positive, creative and passionate young people if our Nation is to flourish. To do this, all schools need adequate funds and resources, and most importantly a vision for the future.
“Our political leaders are doing very little to address the constant arguments between the States and the Commonwealth around funding and administration of our schools.
“At the moment there is no clear vision in education for the future. We have two levels of government with a financial investment in education but no one government is able to implement a vision for a significantly better future. In the meantime, the public is left with promises of more money, but no plan how to deliver a much-needed difference.
“The current debate misses the point that across the entire education sector the funding pot is simply too small and the bureaucracy is too complex,” Rev. Drayton said.
Uniting Education, National Director, John Emmett, said the real issue is not the funding of non-government schools, but the adequate resourcing of the whole sector.
“It’s time to re-visit the two-tier system that exists in both primary and secondary schools which is based on the capacity of people to pay. The focus must shift from that of ‘users pays’ to the basic value that every child deserves the very best education we as a nation can offer.
“There needs to be a major increase in new funding to government schools coupled with a change in policy to allow them the freedom to acquire and accumulate funds,” Mr Emmett said.
“Quality teaching must be supported and strengthened with more funding and resources. Teachers are at the heart of the education system and we need to help them improve their skills.
“Issues to do with University and further education must also be debated. Funding needs to be increased to universities for more places and to ensure lecture and study group sizes do not reach unsustainable levels.
“HECS fees should be held at 2004 levels and governments need to ensure the number of full fee paying places does not blow out and make university attendance dependant on people’s capacity to pay, or repay debt.
“It is time to stop squabbling over far too small a pot of money, dishing out monetary favours and start talking about the real issues in education.”
Media contacts: Gavin Melvin, Senior Communication Officer, 0417 416 674
John Emmett, Uniting Education, 0419 564 351
Dr Drayton is also available for interview on request