No going back to square one on indigenous issues: Caritas chief

Caritas Australia CEO, Jack de Groot, has backed the Federal Government's immediate intervention to stop violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities but warns that the Government should not "fall into the trap of going back to square one".

Caritas Australia supports the immediate intervention to stop the violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities but we need to take a long term approach once Indigenous children, women and men are safe and secure," Mr de Groot said in a statement.

"The grim situation in some Indigenous communities is a product of benign neglect. For decades, Governments of all levels have failed to deliver basic social services for these communities. Go to virtually any indigenous community in the Northern Territory and there is a breakdown in social services; little or no policing, very poor housing, rundown schools, few counseling and other mental health services.

"What we have learnt from years of working in developing countries is that breaking the cycles of poverty and neglect are complex. There is no simple solution. Real positive change comes about from community ownership and action, government support and resources and strong and independent institutions.

"Child abuse is abhorrent and we must act quickly and decisively to stop it. Violence in any community can not be tolerated," said Mr de Groot.

"Caritas Australia is concerned that these measures were called on in response to the Little Children are Sacred report, yet seem to include none of the recommendations of that document.

"Caritas Australia is also concerned about the detail of the legislation and the rush to push the legislation through without proper review and consultation. Furthermore the Government's decision to exempt its actions from the Racial Discrimination Act is also a major concern.

"We have learned from our experience in international development and in working with Indigenous communities for over two decades that unless the community is participating in the decisions about its future and involved in directing those decisions, any interventions are doomed," says Mr de Groot.

"Diabetes management in the Kimberley is a great example. The Unity of First People's Australia is involved in a life changing project, supported by Caritas Australia, that is actively improving the quality of Indigenous peoples lives.

"Through education, training and improving access to services, communities across the Kimberley are themselves battling the diabetes epidemic which sees Indigenous Australians as much as ten times more likely to suffer from Type 2 diabetes.

"We need to get this right. Decades of working in and with Indigenous communities has taught us many lessons. We need to heed these lessons in consultation, partnership and community ownership if we are to ensure we improve the situation. We cannot afford to get it wrong again. So many Indigenous children depend upon it," concluded Mr de Groot.

Don't throw out the Indigenous baby with the bath water (Caritas Australia, Media Release, 14/8/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia

Hasten slowly on Indigenous welfare: Catholic Social Services (CathNews, 8/8/07)
Bishop comments a bit rough, Minister complains (CathNews, 9/7/07) Work with Aborigines, bishops say (CathNews, 6/7/07)
Tackle Indigenous problems, not symptoms: Caritas (CathNews, 26/6/07)
Avoid "bullyboy" approach: Darwin bishop (CathNews, 25/6/07)
Wadeye Indigenous community appeals to Pell (CathNews, 21/11/06)
Aboriginal elder tells Catholics to challenge Indigenous injustices (CathNews, 15/9/06)
Bishops' social justice statement focuses on Indigenous disadvantage (CathNews, 14/9/06)

15 Aug 2007