Aboriginal women want child protection, says Josephite nun

Maintaining the mother-child bond is an essential part of ensuring protection for aboriginal children, according to Josephite Sr Joan Healy.

Sr Healy of the Josephite Leaders' Social Action Group, who has worked in child protection for many years, said once you give a child a substitute mother you condemn the relationship to breakdown.

"We must work hard to keep children in the community - suitably protected - with the bond of the mother maintained as far as possible. Women, often victims of abuse themselves, also need care, support and protection," Sr Healy said.

Sr Healy made the comments last week following a national meeting of the Sisters of St Joseph in Adelaide at the launch of the education kit, The Hour Has Come - Working Towards a Justly Reconciled Australia.

She said that while the abuse of women and children in Indigenous communities has been highlighted in recent months, culminating in the Indigenous summit on 26 June, she and many others have been working on these issues for many years.

"We are sponsoring a camp in response to the strong feelings of the women elders and the Josephites, who have the trust of the women and will be with them when they speak.

"Recognising that perhaps they are the last chance for a future for their grandchildren, women elders from the Lands will sit in the dirt with other women of good will. Nuns joined these gatherings in the past, listening to the wisdom of the women and hearing their stories," she said.

Sr Healy said that solutions to violence and poverty in Indigenous communities "do not lie in election cycles" and warns against the "McDonaldisation" of child protection.

"Programs for the protection of children are succeeding in some communities, but what works for one does not necessarily work for another. Each Indigenous community is unique," she said.

The Hour Has Come kit, part of the Josephite's community awareness program, uses the words of the Pope to focus on issues such as culture and culture clash, the relationship between the Church and Indigenous people, and the on-going needs of Indigenous people into the future.

"The community awareness program is one part of a strategy undertaken by the Australian Josephite Sisters in the lead up to the fortieth anniversary of the 1967 referendum in May next year," Sr Healy said.

"The overall aim of the strategy is to see Indigenous issues returned to the national agenda in a meaningful way, and to see policies introduced that will progress efforts to address Indigenous disadvantage in Australia."

What Women Want (Media Release, Catholic Social Services Australia, 30/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Social Services Australia

Josephite call to go beneath surface in talk of Aboriginal violence (CathNews, 2/6/06)
Archbishop faces questions on Stolen Generations (CathNews, 24/5/06)
Justice Commission wants Govt to explode myths on Native Title (CathNews, 10/12/02)

3 Jul 2006