Indigenous Hopes Must Not Be Left In Too-Hard Basket

Australia’s international aid and development agencies have unanimously backed the call by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for substantive constitutional reform.

Meeting in Melbourne, November 1, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), representing 130 non-government organisations working in 90 developing countries, threw its support behind “the aims and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for substantive constitutional reform”.

The resolution was moved by World Vision Australia chief executive Claire Rogers.

Moving the resolution, Ms Rogers spoke of a little girl she met earlier this year in the Kimberley who was born with foetal alcohol syndrome, severely affecting her future.

“Having been all over the world in my first 12 months as CEO, seeing communities in great need, it was in Australia, in an indigenous community, that I met a little girl who broke my heart,” Ms Rogers said.

Addressing last week’s rejection of the Uluru Statement from the Heart by the Turnbull Government, Ms Rogers said, “We have consistently stood with the indigenous leadership, in support of constitutional recognition. Now is not the time to falter in our support.”

Outside the ACFID annual general meeting, Ms Rogers said that, as an agency devoted to the protection and development of children around the globe, World Vision supported the desire of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a real say in determining their future.

“We cannot simply leave this in the ‘too-hard’ basket,” she said.

“We must start by fully recognising and respecting the spiritual and ancestral link that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have had with this land for the past 60,000 years. This special link continues today and it will make our nation richer if we can become more deeply aware of and involved in the oldest living culture on Earth.

“This is what the Uluru statement sought and we stand with our First Nation brothers and sisters calling for constitutional recognition, as decided by them.

“We must also acknowledge and tell the truth about mistakes we have made in the past for which we are truly sorry.

“We must work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to correct modern-day injustices that widen the inequality gap, instead of closing it. This includes improving access to quality health and education services, and reducing the over-representation of Indigenous people in Australian prisons.”

Ms Rogers said it was international best practice to empower families and communities to lead their own development and build on their insights and World Vision stood with the aid and development sector in supporting the role constitutional recognition will have in accelerating outcomes for Indigenous peoples of Australia.

“This is world’s best practice in development,” she said. “It is the only path for sustainably closing the gap and removing inequalities in health, education and living-standards which have grievously affected generations of First Australians since European settlement.”

World Vision supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ aspiration for constitutional reform and the establishment of a Federal Indigenous Consultative Body as expressed in the 2017 National Constitutional Convention statement. As an organisation centred on the protection and development of children around the world, World Vision supports the concept underlying the Uluru Statement From the Heart that “When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish”.

Claire Rogers is available for interview.

Contact: Leah Swann 0421 857 591

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