Bishops' social justice statement focuses on Indigenous disadvantage

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, will today launch this year's Australian Catholic Bishops' Social Justice Sunday statement, which focuses on dignity and justice for Indigenous Australians.

The Bishops' statement, which is entitled "The Heart of Our Country: Dignity and justice for our Indigenous sisters and brothers", draws on the historic 1986 Alice Springs address of John Paul II to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, an Australian Social Justice Council announcement says.

Responding to Mr Calma at the launch, to be held at Sydney's first Aboriginal church, The Reconciliation Church in La Perouse, will be Jesuit Fr Brian McCoy who has worked for many years with remote communities, including Wadeye in the Northern Territory.

Released as part of the build up to the Church's Social Justice Sunday on 24 September, the statement "invites us to reflect on what Australia has achieved in responding to the Holy Father's challenge to support Indigenous culture and pursue true reconciliation," according to the Council's announcement.

Among other issues, the Bishops' statement focuses on the social and economic disadvantage that continues to be experienced by Indigenous communities.

"How can it be that in this land of plenty, the average life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 17 years less than for non-Indigenous Australians?" the bishops ask.

"In a nation that enjoys a vibrant economy, where governments boast of their careful financial management, the question remains: why have we not been able to eliminate these dire circumstances from the everyday experience of many Indigenous people?"

In the introduction message to the statement, Council Chairman Bishop Christopher Saunders notes the bishops have frequently commented on issues relating to Indigenous people.

This year's statement follows the 1978 statement "Aborigines - A Statement of Concerned", and the 1987 "A Just and Proper Settlement", which anticipated the 1998 bicentennial celebrations.

The 2006 statement will be available in full at the Council's website (www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au) later today.

Launch of the Australian Catholic Bishops' 2006 Social Justice Sunday Statement (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, 13/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council
Bishops' Committee for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
Reconciliation Church, La Perouse
Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, Sydney archdiocese
Wadeye Aboriginal Catholic Community
Wadeye (Australian Government website)

Brisbane Archdiocese welcomes Message Stick (15/6/06)
Pope calls for an apology to Indigenous Australians (CathNews 23/5/06)
Message Stick visits Taree, NSW (27/2/06)
Church in world focus for 'Social Justice' Statement (CathNews, 16/8/05)
Social Justice Statement launched (CathNews, 23/9/04)
Catholic call for proper ATSIC replacement (1/6/04)
Statement challenges racism with 'generous heart' (CathNews, 17/9/03)

14 Sep 2006