"Boiled lollies" leave sour taste for Indigenous people

Comparing government policy on Indigenous issues to handing out lollies to children, Indigenous leader Graeme Mundine said it's time to move to a new approach emphasising shared responsibility if development targets are to be achieved.

"I stand before you as an economic refugee who had to move out of my own home country in search of better opportunities," Graeme Mundine said introducing the 5th Annual Common Wealth for Common Good Address in Brisbane yesterday.

"Despite this moving away, one thing I always recall is my fellow people, of my own country, who have not had the same opportunities as me," recalled Mr Mundine, Executive Secretary of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission of the National Council of Churches Australia.

Referring to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2000, Mr Mundine described the goals as "a bold statement" that showed that the leaders "had the will to alleviate poverty in the world by 2015".

"Subsequently, the International community supported this call and made a commitment to holding our leaders accountable through the Make Poverty History campaign which millions of us have supported around the world," he said referring to a campaign to pressure world leaders to commit to poverty reduction strategies.

However, while the MDGs are focused on relieving poverty amongst the poorest of the poor, there is no mention of Indigenous peoples, Mr Mundine said.

He says "a key criticism of the progress so far has been that Governments have tended to treat the MDGs as a foreign policy and overseas aid issue, rather than adapting them to deal with poverty at home."

However, Indigenous people in Australia "decided that it was no good criticising from the side lines" and so the Make Indigenous Poverty History campaign was born.

Recalling a story from Torres Strait Island Anglican Bishop Bishop Saibo Mabo of a government administrator who went around Indigenous communities giving everyone boiled lollies, Mr Mundine asked whether Indigenous Australians are "still being handed boiled lollies" by the government rather than "enjoying the full range of rights, advantages and responsibilities that are due to us as citizens of Australia".

"That lolly was meant for me, what the government gave us. He give the lolly, you suck the lolly, the taste finished. That what the government is - doing and today that's what he been doing all the time. He make you glad and he make you sorry again. He hurt you. He make you happy only for a while like you sucking that boiled lolly. And that was my interpretation of that boiled lolly," he quoted Bishop Mabo as saying.

Photo of Graeme Mundine, courtesy of Tony Robertson

From Boiled Lollies to Shared Responsibility Agreements: What hope for the future? (5th Annual Common Wealth for Common Good Address, Brisbane, 17/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission

Pope inspires Ecumenical Indigenous Commission (CathNews, 20/3/05)

18 Oct 2006