The 39th Synod of the Uniting Church in Western Australia has called on the State Government to use negotiated partnership approaches to work with Indigenous peoples in remote communities. The Uniting Church in Western Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress continue to hold concern over the Regional Services Reform affecting remote Aboriginal communities currently being implemented by the State Government.
“We call on the State Government to develop a detailed consultation framework and evaluation process concerning the sustainability of remote communities in Western Australia to ensure the free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples in any decision concerning them,” said the moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia, Rev Steve Francis.
“While there may be some benefit to reforming the disjointed provision of some services, we need to act very sensitively with Indigenous people who have suffered so much dispossession and trauma during the history of European settlement in Western Australia. Making decisions to remove services to remote Aboriginal settlements could increase the sense of Indigenous dispossession and displacement.”
Rev Sealin Garlett, chair of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress WA said, “Aboriginal people have a deep connection to the 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 and to have it look after us.
“We don’t want to have “reforms” done to us. Our people want to be able to sit down and yarn with the Government about how they can help us implement our own strategies for development and sustainability.”
The Synod meeting called on the State Government to urgently renegotiate funding arrangements for municipal and essential services with the Federal Government as was done by the South Australian Government. The Synod also called on the Federal Government to reinstate funding for essential and municipal services for Aboriginal communities and to ensure any change adheres to international human rights particularly the right to consultation and consent as expressed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.