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Govt accused of failing Aboriginies on reconciliation

Religious and Church organisations have unleashed a damning wave of criticism of the Federal Government for its lack of leadership on Aboriginal reconciliation, according to The Catholic Leader.

The paper says the criticism was repeated in several submissions to the Senate's Legal and Constitutional References Committee on the inquiry into the progress towards national reconciliation. Part of the inquiry's role is to consider the adequacy of the Government's response on the issue.

Catholic bodies that made submissions include the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Caritas Australia, Congregational Leaders of Religious Institutes (NSW), Josephite Sisters, Mercy Sisters, the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education, and Toowoomba diocese's Social Justice Commission.

The Josephites and Mercies were also invited to make presentations to a hearing of the inquiry in Sydney earlier this month. Sr Annette Arnold RSJ said the congregations were probably asked to make presentations because of their grassroots involvement in Aboriginal communities.

Most of the Church submissions claimed the momentum for reconciliation had stalled, and pointed to a lack of leadership from the Government as one of the main reasons.

The Josephites' submission said: "Government inaction, tardiness and negativity have undermined reconciliation and the enormous energy that had been generated prior to 2001."

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and the Congregational Leaders of Religious Institutes (NSW) called on the Government to expand its current policy "to include political, cultural and spiritual dimensions as well as the practical or economic dimensions."

The inquiry is due to present a report by the end of June.

Catholic Leader

Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee: Inquiry into the Progress Towards National Reconciliation | Submissions: Josephite Justice Network, Sisters of St Joseph, Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba, Reconciliation Renewing Relationships, Catholic Archdiocesan Committee Sydney, Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education, The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia , Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Melbourne , Caritas Australia , Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in New South Wales Social Justice Committee .

14 Apr 2003