Chaplain urges fix for Alice Springs town camps

The Catholic chaplain who has been visiting the troubled Alice Springs town camps for three years has told the entourage of Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough that they do not provide a suitable environment to raise children.

Divine Word Missionary Fr Aseli Raass, who briefly met with Mr Brough's advisor, told the ABC that the conditions of Aboriginal town camps in and around Alice Springs, with a total population of about 3,000 people, are "truly pathetic".

Mr Brough has spent the day in Central Australia speaking to locals about how to overcome the problems plaguing the small dysfunctional communities on the fringes of Alice Springs.

"There are some families that are trying hard," Fr Raass said. "However, generally speaking ... if I'm married, have children, I would not raise my kids in this type of surrounding environment. It's not safe."

He said "since Good Friday there have been two stabbings, one committed suicide, one of the stabbings resulted in death, thank God one is still alive."

In a joint announcement yesterday with the Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, Mal Brough revealed 100 buildings from the mothballed Woomera Detention Centre in South Australia will be given to Indigenous communities.

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that a spokesperson for the Mayor of Sydney City Council, Ms Clover Moore, has denied that the Council are planning to permanently remove Mum Shirl's memorial seat outside Redfern's St Vincent's Church.

As reported in CathNews yesterday, St Vincent's church parishioners and local Aboriginal leaders have warned that any plans to remove the seat "would be an outrage" and a "deep insult to Mum Shirl's family and to Aboriginal people generally".

However, Ms Moore's spokesperson said the seat is "going to be replaced in consultation with the local church, the medical service and any other community stakeholders."

"I believe there is a difference of opinion between the church and the medical centre, but whatever meets their needs we will do," he said.

Reverend Bill Crews, the founder of the Exodus Foundation, said any support given to remove the seat had failed to recognise Mum Shirl's contribution.

"That seat is symbolic of the church that is open to the Aboriginal community in all situations, down at heel or in need," he said. "The Aboriginal community is bruised and battered this is just another example of the church alienating people most in need."

Remote Aboriginal communities to receive new buildings (ABC Radio PM 2/5/06)
Aboriginal leaders, church in feud over memorial seat (Sydney Morning Herald 3/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Hon Mal Brough MP

Threat to memory of Redfern's Mum Shirl (CathNews 2/5/06)

Native Title decision delivers certainty for all parties (Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace, Diocese of Broome 1/5/06)

3 May 2006