Indigenous funding good start but care needed: Bishop Saunders

The Federal Government's offer at this week's Indigenous Summit of $130 million to states to combat the problems of abuse and violence in indigenous communities was a "good beginning" but care is needed, said Australian Catholic Social Justice Council Chairman, Bishop Christopher Saunders.

The Catholic Leader reports that the Federal Government's funding offer is available to states but only if they agree to match some of the funding, restore law and order and boost policing in Indigenous communities.

The bulk of the federal money would go towards drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, new police stations and a national intelligence unit to investigate sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities.

Bishop Saunders of Broome said more police in Aboriginal communities would help address some of the law and order problems. But he said more blue or khaki police uniforms would not solve all the violence or abuse.

"A lot of the violence happens behind closed doors," said Bishop Saunders, who has been working in Aboriginal communities for 30 years.

Early this week Bishop said that "creative" cooperation between the states and Federal government, and greater consultation between the governments and Indigenous communities are needed.

"Creative ways to ensure greater and more effective cooperation between State and Federal governments must be employed if those at the fringe of the economic boom-times are not to be further marginalised," he said.

Under the plan, the Federal Government also plans to remove from federal laws any provisions requiring courts to consider cultural backgrounds, under a "one law for all Australians" policy.

Bishop Saunders said some cultural laws did need to be removed, but he said care needed to be taken not to create two extraordinary sets of different standards.

Hope for Aborigines, Bishop Christopher Saunders (Catholic Leader 30/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council

Bishop says Aborigines living in "cauldron of depravity" (CathNews 25/5/06)

Govt pledges $130 million to combat problems in remote Indigneous communities (Lateline 26/6/06)
Pope calls for an apology to Indigenous Australians (CathNews 23/5/06)

30 Jun 2006