Making indigenous poverty history in Australia

By staff writers
August 8, 2006

Making indigenous poverty history in Australia

-08/08/06

By Douglas Hynd

The worldwide campaign to ëMake Poverty Historyí rightly draws vital attention to the poorest of the worldís poor, which includes the majority of indigenous peoples. So what about the poverty of indigenous peoples in Australia?

This is a question campaigners in the churches and in other parts of Australian society are tackling with increasing urgency.

Some feel that the mobilization of churches against poverty through the ëMake Poverty Historyí campaign runs the risk that the entrenched poverty and social exclusion of Australiaís indigenous community will again be pushed back down the churchesí agenda.

Without wanting to be critical of the churchís concern for global poverty, indigenous leaders are continuing to remind Australian Christians that they have issues of poverty on their doorstop that have been largely ignored for the past two hundred years.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) has sought to highlight the connections between the Millennium Development Goals and the situation of Australian Indigenous Peoples through the ëMake Indigenous Poverty Historyí campaign launched on 1 November 2005.

The campaign aims to ensure that the global campaign supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) does not overlook the poverty suffered by Indigenous Peoples around the world including Australia.

While the MDGs do not specifically target Indigenous Peoples, they are often the ones most affected by extreme poverty and usually rank at the bottom of most social and economic indicators.
The message is that you donít get to choose between campaigning for improving the wellbeing of indigenous Australians and tackling poverty overseas. You donít need to choose. They are part of the same agenda.

Key social and economic indicators show that Australian indigenous peoples are living in poverty: children are twice as likely to die in infancy, and suffer from more preventable diseases, higher unemployment, lower house ownership, lower engagement with education and are six times as likely to be murdered.

Measures of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continue to lag behind that of many of the worldís poorest countries.

The ëMake Indigenous Poverty Historyí campaign is now being rolled out across the country. On Sunday 9 July 2006 the Victorian launch was held at the Collins Street Baptist Church in central Melbourne, an event that was almost completely ignored by the mainstream media despite the presence of significant indigenous leaders.

Graeme Ring, a columnist for the National Indigenous Times, a fortnightly national newspaper with a crusading reputation on indigenous issues, though was there and reported on the launch. His report also cast some light on the role of the church in providing a voice on issues of justice and integrity in public policy.

Observed Ring: ìOnce upon a time churches used to be about bells and smells and arcane rituals. Now it seems that the men and - gasp! - women of the cloth, get around monstering people about social justice.î

He continues: ìInstead of running afternoon teas and macramÈ workshops they are developing the rather bolshie habit of pointing out that wealthy, complacent Australia has unfinished business to address.î

ìItís easy to become numb to the deluge of statistics that bear out the scale of Indigenous poverty and disadvantage in our own countryî, explains Ring. ìTo forget that those numbers on the charts are Aboriginal Australians struggling to survive. Real people experiencing real misery.î

His conclusion is that ì[t]he ëMake Indigenous Poverty Historyí campaign shines a powerful torch on our own countryís indifference towards indigenous poverty.î

According to the National Indigenous Times report: ìThe Melbourne launch was well-attended, moving, and a bit special. If youíre wondering what in Godís name pastors and priests are doing spending their valuable time campaigning for social justice, the answer is easy. Theyíre changing the world.î

In the next stage of the Make Indigenous Poverty History campaign, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission is releasing a CD-ROM, which includes facts and figures, educational worksheets and video input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

This resource material is in easy-to-use PDF and Video format. It includes interviews, a case study, how to make your own poverty pole, worksheets and prayer materials.
The CD ROM was officially released on 7 August 2006.

Details on the CD-ROM and how to order it can be found on the National Council of Churches in Australia website, along with full details of the ëMaking Indigenous Poverty Historyí campaign.

Doug Hynd is a public servant and a sessional lecturer at St Mark's National Theological Centre, Canberra. He is a member of the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ).

[Also on Ekklesia: Churches leader expresses dismay at Aboriginal situation; Jim Wallis warns against religious right in Australia; Australian churches line up to oppose uranium mining; Australian Catholics seek support for Aboriginal people; Gospel should challenge violence and fear, say Australian Christians; In the beginning was the text message; Australian Muslim seeks freedom for Christian Peacemakers; Monks produce pray-as-you-go podcasts]

Making indigenous poverty history in Australia

-08/08/06

By Douglas Hynd

The worldwide campaign to ëMake Poverty Historyí rightly draws vital attention to the poorest of the worldís poor, which includes the majority of indigenous peoples. So what about the poverty of indigenous peoples in Australia?

This is a question campaigners in the churches and in other parts of Australian society are tackling with increasing urgency.

Some feel that the mobilization of churches against poverty through the ëMake Poverty Historyí campaign runs the risk that the entrenched poverty and social exclusion of Australiaís indigenous community will again be pushed back down the churchesí agenda.

Without wanting to be critical of the churchís concern for global poverty, indigenous leaders are continuing to remind Australian Christians that they have issues of poverty on their doorstop that have been largely ignored for the past two hundred years.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) has sought to highlight the connections between the Millennium Development Goals and the situation of Australian Indigenous Peoples through the ëMake Indigenous Poverty Historyí campaign launched on 1 November 2005.

The campaign aims to ensure that the global campaign supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) does not overlook the poverty suffered by Indigenous Peoples around the world including Australia.

While the MDGs do not specifically target Indigenous Peoples, they are often the ones most affected by extreme poverty and usually rank at the bottom of most social and economic indicators.
The message is that you donít get to choose between campaigning for improving the wellbeing of indigenous Australians and tackling poverty overseas. You donít need to choose. They are part of the same agenda.

Key social and economic indicators show that Australian indigenous peoples are living in poverty: children are twice as likely to die in infancy, and suffer from more preventable diseases, higher unemployment, lower house ownership, lower engagement with education and are six times as likely to be murdered.

Measures of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continue to lag behind that of many of the worldís poorest countries.

The ëMake Indigenous Poverty Historyí campaign is now being rolled out across the country. On Sunday 9 July 2006 the Victorian launch was held at the Collins Street Baptist Church in central Melbourne, an event that was almost completely ignored by the mainstream media despite the presence of significant indigenous leaders.

Graeme Ring, a columnist for the National Indigenous Times, a fortnightly national newspaper with a crusading reputation on indigenous issues, though was there and reported on the launch. His report also cast some light on the role of the church in providing a voice on issues of justice and integrity in public policy.

Observed Ring: ìOnce upon a time churches used to be about bells and smells and arcane rituals. Now it seems that the men and - gasp! - women of the cloth, get around monstering people about social justice.î

He continues: ìInstead of running afternoon teas and macramÈ workshops they are developing the rather bolshie habit of pointing out that wealthy, complacent Australia has unfinished business to address.î

ìItís easy to become numb to the deluge of statistics that bear out the scale of Indigenous poverty and disadvantage in our own countryî, explains Ring. ìTo forget that those numbers on the charts are Aboriginal Australians struggling to survive. Real people experiencing real misery.î

His conclusion is that ì[t]he ëMake Indigenous Poverty Historyí campaign shines a powerful torch on our own countryís indifference towards indigenous poverty.î

According to the National Indigenous Times report: ìThe Melbourne launch was well-attended, moving, and a bit special. If youíre wondering what in Godís name pastors and priests are doing spending their valuable time campaigning for social justice, the answer is easy. Theyíre changing the world.î

In the next stage of the Make Indigenous Poverty History campaign, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission is releasing a CD-ROM, which includes facts and figures, educational worksheets and video input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

This resource material is in easy-to-use PDF and Video format. It includes interviews, a case study, how to make your own poverty pole, worksheets and prayer materials.
The CD ROM was officially released on 7 August 2006.

Details on the CD-ROM and how to order it can be found on the National Council of Churches in Australia website, along with full details of the ëMaking Indigenous Poverty Historyí campaign.

Doug Hynd is a public servant and a sessional lecturer at St Mark's National Theological Centre, Canberra. He is a member of the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ).

[Also on Ekklesia: Churches leader expresses dismay at Aboriginal situation; Jim Wallis warns against religious right in Australia; Australian churches line up to oppose uranium mining; Australian Catholics seek support for Aboriginal people; Gospel should challenge violence and fear, say Australian Christians; In the beginning was the text message; Australian Muslim seeks freedom for Christian Peacemakers; Monks produce pray-as-you-go podcasts]

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.