The Uniting Church in Australia, Western Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress WA (Congress) are deeply troubled by the planned closure of remote Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. They are concerned about the ramifications this will have on individuals and communities affected and believe it displays a concerning lack of understanding about Aboriginal culture and the rights of Indigenous people.
“We call on the Federal and State Government to reconsider their approach to remote settlements, and engage upon a consultation with remote communities about the best way to deliver services to them,” said Moderator of the Uniting Church, Rev Steve Francis.
“We need to act sensitively with Indigenous people who have suffered so much dispossession and trauma during the history of European settlement of Western Australia. Making decisions to remove services to remote Indigenous settlements could increase the sense of Indigenous dispossession and displacement.”
Rev Sealin Garlett, chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress WA said, “Indigenous people have a deep connection to our land. This is not just a ‘lifestyle choice’ but part of our cultural and spiritual identity. We need to be on country to look after it.”
At the 7th Triennial Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, a formal relationship of Covenant with its Indigenous members began, recognising and repenting for the Church’s complicity in the injustices perpetrated on Australia’s Indigenous community, and pledging to move forward with a shared future. Congress’ generous response to this statement, among other messages, called upon the broader Church to take-up the mission of reconciliation.
The ongoing and continually renewing nature of the Covenant calls the Uniting Church to continually act to remove the systems and structures of discrimination and oppression in Australia.
Together, the Uniting Church in Western Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress WA, request that the Western Australian Government adopt a similar approach based in consultation, rather than forcing communities to close.