An International Call for Justice
Earlier this year I was up in Alice Springs, Darwin and Katherine, visiting the Army’ corps and programs and meeting Indigenous brothers and sisters. You ask how Indigenous Australians view the federal government’s intervention into Aboriginal communities; the quarantining of welfare payments and the enforced policing of shopping. I heard the message very clearly: ‘It’s not on.’ They are calling for liberation.
Their call has been echoed recently in the Amnesty International 2010 Report, ‘The State of the World’s Human Rights’. The suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act has meant that “more than 45,000 Aboriginal people [are] being subjected to racially discriminatory measures, including compulsory income management” .
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has also called on our government to comply with the UN Convention against Racism in applying the Northern Territory Intervention . Following this in April, the government announced support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, reversing Australia’s previous opposition to the Declaration .
In August “the UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous people visited Australia and concluded that measures under the Intervention overtly discriminate against Aboriginal peoples, infringe their right to self-determination and further stigmatize communities” . And yet Australia’s Indigenous people are still suffering under the yoke of the intervention.
In Alice Springs
In Alice Springs I met with the assistant corps officer, Lieut Amanda Vaarzon-Morel, who is one of those members of Gen-Y who have been touched by God to help us. Her heart is open to reconciliation with our people and to the outpouring of the spirit of God on the nation.
As a church minister and a court chaplain, Amanda took me around town. She showed me two or three of the town camps. I cried out to God. I wouldn’t even allow my dogs to live in a town camp, let alone women and children. This is slavery, plain and simple. It is as it was in Egypt: it is enslavement.
I called a prayer meeting that night; it was an open house event, attended by white and Indigenous Australians, including some Indigenous sisters. We prayed; we knew and we know that it is going to take God’s intervention to abolish the government intervention. It’s going to take God to solve this crisis. We must allow God to work through us, to bring this intervention to an end.
That experience has changed me forever. The message to the church? Please, get on your face before God and cry out to God. May the chains of bondage be broken from the lives of our Indigenous peoples – they must be set free.
God Has Heard the Cry of His People
Our people are oppressed, more downtrodden than other peoples I have met and worshipped with overseas. I’m familiar with all the aboriginal communities in Queensland, but there is nothing like the level of despair and disadvantage I have seen in the Northern territory. The heel of government has impacted Aboriginal people in the targeted communities: they are so broken. All Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory are now targeted, as ultimately are all communities in Australia. Legislation is underway to extend income management to all Australian communities, Indigenous or otherwise.
God has heard their cry. I believe he is going to give a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. They are the people and the sheep of his pasture. They continue to be faithful to God even under the jackboot of the federal government and the Northern Territory government.
Yet in the midst of their faithfulness, they are so beaten down and broken. Many people in those townships and camps find it hard to imagine a different reality. I am amazed at how they survive; I would go crazy in one day. Yet survive they do, by God’s grace.
They may have a roof, but seemingly no electricity. No running water. No heating or cooling. It is a disgrace. One Salvation Army client who desperately needed a new pair of shoes was advised that he could only buy cordial on his Basics Card . “This client is an older man, who has limited English and clearly does not understand the basic mechanics of the system, he has been living on approximately half of his Centrelink payments for as long as he has been subjected to income management, and simply accepts that his entitlement has been reduced and that he now only gets half the money he used to. He agrees that it was much better before the Basics Card system because he used to get more money” .
The word from my people is that they wait. They wait and they want the intervention lifted off their backs. They have been stripped of their dignity. They go to a supermarket, grown adults, citizens of this nation, and they are governed by a green card. Choice is no longer permitted. Their treatment is that suffered by the Jews in Nazi Germany.
The way they are controlled is the government saying, ‘We know what is best; we know better than you. We’ll tell you what to do and where to go.’
The vast majority of our national Indigenous leaders are calling for the end of the Intervention and the reintroduction of the non-racial discrimination legislation
Our people in Darwin and Palmerston originally supported the intervention. They now recognise that is evil; the intent of the Intervention is evil. They didn’t realize that at the start. Many people are concerned that is it the start of a massive land grab. Mining rights are at stake. This was told to me in Darwin by my own people. The people are saying, ‘Please, come talk to us first; sit down, we’ll talk to you.’
The Role of God’s Church
Flying from Darwin to Canberra at 35,000 feet I was praying; asking God how the churches can become involved or more involved. The Lord said to me, ‘The church in this country has to take ownership of this injustice. To the extent to which it does so, God will honour the church.’
The church will be empowered by the Holy Spirit, to the extent to which she takes up this challenge. The Bride of Christ must prepare for the Bridegroom. This entails true reconciliation happening between us, with us, all of us together in unity, love, respect and honour. I believe this will bring the manifest presence of Christ among us, his people.
- Amnesty International, The State of the World’s Human Rights, 2010, http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_EN.pdf
- The Salvation Army, Salvation Army Submission The Senate Community Affairs legislation Committee, February 2010, http://www.salvationarmy.org.au/salvwr/_assets/main/lib60818