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Catholic call for proper ATSIC replacement

Two major Catholic bodies have issued a joint call for all political parties to ensure that an adequate regional and national structure is in place to represent the needs and aspirations of Indigenous people, following the dissolution of ATSIC one month from today.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) and the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) issued the Reconciliation Week call late yesterday. Reconciliation Week began on Thursday.

NATSICC Chairperson Ms Melissa Brickell said the proposed Government-appointed advisory body is not a good enough solution, and she regrets the process that it leading to its formation.

"The lack of consultation and negotiation with Indigenous people on replacing ATSIC with merely a Government-appointed advisory body is disempowering and not ensuring self-determination for Indigenous people," she said. "The Government's decisions and actions on this matter are a major threat to National Reconciliation for all Australians."

Meanwhile ACSJC Chairman Bishop Christopher Saunders said the proposed transfer of programs once delivered by ATSIC to a variety of Government bureaucracies is a concern because the existing mainstream agencies have hardly delivered on promised improvements in the past.

"On the face of it, the mainstreaming of Indigenous-specific programs and services could be a retrograde step - even when judged according to the basic notion of 'practical reconciliation' ", the Bishop said.

Bishop Saunders and Ms Brickell emphasised the need for a strong, representative and more than advisory voice of Indigenous people for Indigenous Affairs. "During Reconciliation Week, we acknowledge the importance of genuine dialogue and mutual respect in forging a shared future. We note that alternative arrangements to the structure of ATSIC are presently being considered.

Reconciliation - A national voice that counts (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council/Australian Catholic Social Justice Council 31/5/04)

ACSJC | Briefing - June 2004 (includes comment on ATSIC dissolution by executive officer John Ferguson - available this morning)
Reconciliation Australia | National Reconciliation Week | Pathways to Reconciliation
Journey of Healing | Sorry Day 2004

Bishops challenged on Indigenous Guidelines (CathNews 26/5/04)
Sorry Day call to reanimate National Reconciliation (CathNews 25/5/04)

32 Jun 2004