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Aboriginal leader's critique of Brennan speech

Cape York aboriginal leader Noel Pearson has contested some of the "romantic" ideas contained in Jesuit human rights advocate Frank Brennan's Ozanam Lecture for St Vincent de Paul last month.

The criticisms were contained in Pearson's speech to the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

He focused on Brennan's contention that Aboriginal people must find a way other than "secularism, materialism and individualism" to improve their lives.

He said Brennan's basic outlook on indigenous affairs is founded on the "traditional 'social justice' perspective on which he was nurtured", which does he claimed is not easily compatible with business initiatives such as Pearson's own Cape York Partnerships.

"Brennan dismisses the partnerships that we are developing with the private sector in Cape York," he said. "But he knows nothing of the fact that these partnerships are helping to solve some of the most mundane but critical issues facing families in our communities, such as putting in place banking facilities so that families can manage their meagre income and mothers can feed their children."

Pearson claimed Aboriginies are entitled along with all Australians - including Brennan's own family - to pursue business and material interests without specific regard for the values of social justice.

He said: "We do not see it as our main mission to be a custodian of spiritual values or an environmental conscience."

Social justice platitudes not enough (The Age 4/6/04)

Frank Brennan SJ AO: The Church's Voice and State Powers for Justice and Peace: Seeking Decency, Harmony and Equality for All (2004 Ozanam Lecture, St Francis Church, Melbourne, 20 May 2004
Cape York Partnerships | Noel Pearson profile
Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

4 Jun 2004