Sunday, 15 July 2007

Second newsletter

Our second newsletter will be out tomorrow; for all you members, it will be emailed to you. The July-August edition includes a feature article on Iraq discussing possible exit strategies, a response to Australian Christian Lobby's Jim Wallace's opinion piece on Church and State, and heaps more!

If you'd like a complimentary copy to find our more about Progression, please email us and we'd be happy to send you one.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

This was an address by the Rev.Shayne Blackman to the NATSIEC ‘Hearts are Burning’ Forum in in Townsville on 4 May 2005 but is timely now because of the questions we're asking about Indigenous people, social justice and Christianity. Here is half of it:

"Imagine if you will a plant in a pot whose roots have been constrained for years by the confines of that hard pot. Indigenous people have been that plant whose deep reaching roots have been constrained by the confines of a system. The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress works to develop formulations and responses to break this symbolic pot so that Indigenous people can reach into their deep spirituality so that they can bear good fruit.

Roots that reach to the core of Indigenous spirituality bear the marks of Peace, Order and good government. The system of Law. Assent. Culture. The word of God. Consistency, Values, Character formation, Beliefs. The fruits that bear from roots that are awakened and nourished in Indigenous spirituality include Justice, Community Development, Fellowship and Prosperity to name but a few. Indeed the fruit that bears from a nurturing of this spirituality are some of the richest gifts a nation could ask for.

Gifts that contribute to a contemporary Australian society born from Indigenous soil and spirituality while retaining the unique identity of their creators.

This unique identity and reaching into our Indigenous spirituality is core in achieving things through our own processes and structures in line with the law which was handed down to us by the creator when He formed this land. It is about restoring a Shalom, a magaya to this land and all of the people living in it.

We all been witness to the passing of a truly great leader John Paul II, a leader that transcended the boundaries of religion, nations and prejudice. We have also been witness to an unprecedented era of violence perpetuated through terrorism, non more so evident than in war-torn Iraq. No doubt we are all aware of the graphic images of bloodied streets and carnage broadcast through the mass media. As the war continues, the issue of terrorism and violence will continue to play a central role in the stories we hear and see every day. This will probably be more evident in Australia now that Douglas Wood an Australian has been caught in Iraq by insurgents and held hostage. These images will no doubt have struck a nerve with Australians and the rest of the world as it hits closer to home.

But while violence perpetuated through terrorism is deplorable, I would draw your attention to the violence at home: violence you will rarely see on any media, nor a violence perpetuated through terrorism or civil acts of war but a violence of the spirit, body and mind; a violence perpetuated through poverty and broad-ranging misaligned Governmental policies that do not respond to the needs of Indigenous people.

It was once said by Mahatma Gandhi that poverty is the worst form of violence. I would like to add that poverty is also the worst form of terrorism. We as Indigenous Australians have unceremoniously experienced the worst form of terrorism for most of this century. I hardly need mention the vents of the first half of the century that shaped the unfortunate destiny for succeeding generations of Indigenous people.

The latter half of the century, and the new, has seen little improvement in the emotional terrorism felt by Indigenous people.

Though well intentioned, Governmental responses have inadequately responded to Indigenous aspirations and it is at this juncture I would like to elaborate on the increasingly important role organisations like
Congress are playing in providing pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The world view of Indigenous Australians differs largely from the view held by the majority of mainstream Australia. Some confronting questions arise when considers that Indigenous Australians were not living in a spiritual Terra Nullius prior to European settlement. Indigenous spirituality played and will always play a central role in the lives of many Indigenous people. Yet it is a fact that Indigenous Australians are now unceremoniously living in conditions befitting of a third world nation.

It is a fact that Indigenous Australians on all socio-economic indicators consistently rank below the national average. It is a fact that many Indigenous people remain affected by relatively recent experiences to which they were subjected because of their Aboriginality.
Australians who know the facts of the frontier may be unaware of what followed the defeat and dispossession of Aboriginal people over much of settled Australia. Survivors were subjected to government policies that attempted variously to displace, convert, isolate and eventually assimilate them.

This, in combination with the fact that Indigenous people are more likely to experience disability and reduced quality of life due to ill health, and will die 20 years younger on average than non-Indigenous Australians, does not help the outlook.

Let us take an example. If expenditure on hospital care is excluded, less is spent per capita on Indigenous health than on the health of other Australians. However, Aboriginal people are admitted to hospital sicker, often with more than one illness, and they stay longer. Recent research has found that for every dollar spent on non-Indigenous Australians, about $1.08 is spent on Indigenous Australians, yet we are three times as sick (ATSIC statistics).

Socio-economic disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians include higher rates of unemployment and lower rates of education and home ownership, health risk behaviours including higher rates of smoking and alcohol consumption and exposure to violence.

There are other factors attributed to loss of control and feelings of hopelessness that combine to influence this poor socio-economic outlook. In Queensland alone, approximately 72% of Indigenous households live in rented premises compared to 28% of all Queenslanders. Of those living in private dwellings: 2% do not have running water connected; 2% do not have electricity or gas connected; 3% do not have a toilet; 4% do not have bathing facilities (source: Blue Care).

One hundred years on and Indigenous people still do not have an environment that quells the terrorism felt in their hearts and minds in their own land. One hundred years later, the life of Indigenous people is still sadly crippled by the subtle chains of discrimination and shackles of poverty. One hundred years on and Indigenous people still live on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

Indigenous people are still languishing in the corners of Australian society and still feel like exiles in their own land.Let us not however be disheartened or wallow in the valley of despair but hopeful of a nation that embraces a conciliatory path toward the palace of justice and recognition for all Indigenous Australians.

For The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations (Psalm 33:10-11)"

You can read the rest at

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Conservatism and values in Australia

More food for thought by Clive Hamilton:

“Most Australians, including those caught up in consumer lifestyles, feel the prevailing value system is warped. They believe Australia has become too selfish and superficial, that people have lost touch with the more desirable standards of personal behaviour such as self-restraint, mutual respect and generosity. Conservatives have been much more adept than progressives at tapping into these concerns, even though in the name of choice they promote the very market values and consumerist goals that corrode the values we seek.

“The desire of most Australians for a society built on core human values has been twisted into support for a retrograde conservative morality including vilification of single mothers, hostility towards gay relationships and attempts to demonise the “undeserving” poor. The values of a decent society have been overlaid by outdated prejudices and positions based on particular religious conviction.”

Clive then goes onto advocate what he calls a "politics of wellbeing", which I'll go into at a later date. I thought this was interesting in terms of why conservative politics often appeal to Christians.