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Dodson makes pulpit plea for Sydney Archdiocese to hand over land

The elder statesmen of the Aboriginal reconciliation movement, Patrick Dodson, told a congregation in Sydney yesterday that the Archdiocese should hand ownership of a former school building to the Aboriginal Medical Service's (AMS) clinics and administrative offices.

"It's a very small thing in the scheme of Sydney. This little portion, a minuscule part, would have such a rippling effect to many other indigenous peoples around Australia," he told a congregation which has been battling Dr Pell to let the property go.

The AMS has occupied the building since 1978 and now has it rent-free until 2008. But Chief Executive Naomi Mayers said the organisation needs more security.

She said that the Pope had replied to her letter, but Dr Pell had not.

Mr Dodson said that the Federal Government intended switching urban-dwelling Aborigines to mainstream rather than indigenous-controlled services, taking away the organisations which supported their identities, so that "the process of assimilation rolls on".

"There's a real need for the church to have a voice in these matters and to stand side by side with the indigenous people," he said. "It's one thing to to express regret and to seek forgiveness for the activities of the past of the church and the wrongs it may have committed."

Archdiocesan spokesman Fr Brian Lucas said that the building would remain in the hands of the Redfern parish. The idea that the AMS could have it and perhaps sell it "down the track", he said, is untenable. He added that the Archbishop had not replied to Ms Mayers' letter because she had a "face to face" interview with him instead, and Dr Pell would "most certainly" be willing to visit the Redfern church and AMS. SOURCE
SMH (payment required)