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Uniting Church in Australia Assembly - News

Uniting Church National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, today welcomed a doubling of Australian Government funding to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS.

“We applaud the Government for committing an extra $300 million to combat the virus in the Asia-Pacific region – a region where last year 1 million people were infected and half a million people died.

“While infections have been relatively stable in Australia, the Uniting Church has constantly made the point that Australia has an obligation to the rest of the world, especially our neighbours in the Pacific.

“Two of our National Directors wrote to the Prime Minister late last year urging for an increase in the level of government funding to combat HIV/AIDS.”

“Australia has been a leader in tackling HIV/AIDS in our own country and this new funding sends a message that Australia takes its role in the region seriously and is prepared to commit to working for a better future.”

“It’s heartening that the Government has listened to groups like the Uniting Church and committed to a new strategy at the Asia/Pacific Ministerial Meeting
on HIV/AIDS,” Rev. Drayton said.

UnitingJustice Director, Rev. Elenie Poulos, who co-signed last year’s letter to the Prime Minister, said the Government’s latest commitment in the local region would help to reduce the number of new infections.

“Poverty increases the likelihood of HIV infection and poverty combined with the stigma that is often associated with infection means that treatment is often out of the question for many people.”

“Over 7 million people living in the Asia/Pacific region live with HIV/AIDS. Without a positive commitment, our region runs the very real risk of facing a crisis like the one being faced now in Africa.”

“The Church welcomes the announcement of an Australian International HIV/AIDS strategy and looks forward to studying it more closely in the coming days,” Rev. Poulos said.

Media contacts:
Reverend Dean Drayton, 0400 354 237
Reverend Elenie Poulos, 0417 431 853

The Uniting Church today welcomed the decision by Senator Kerry O’Brien that the Labor Party will refer the ATSIC Bill to a Senate Inquiry.

Uniting Church General Secretary, Reverend Terence Corkin said the decision would allow the indigenous community and Australian citizens to have a voice on the future of ATSIC.

“This decision ensures all Australians will have a say on the future of ATSIC and most importantly, the principles of indigenous self determination are adhered to before any decision is made.

“Most Australians think it’s fair for people to have a say in the decisions that affect their life. The Church believes Indigenous Australians should have a voice in their future – the legislation to abolish ATSIC without a replacement body would have silenced this voice.

“We should not remove the indigenous voice from political affairs and the Church hopes this inquiry will find a way to ensure that voice is heard through a National Indigenous body.

“It is now up to the Greens, Democrats and Independents to support this step and ensure the inquiry commences. The Church calls on them to support this measure and ensure a just future for Indigenous Australians,” Rev Corkin said.

Media contacts:
Reverend Terence Corkin, 0407 220 677
Gavin Melvin, Senior Communications Officer, National Assembly, 0417 416 674

“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."

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


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