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Archbishop Tutu’s Prayer for the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples

pdfStatement  from  Archbishop  Emeritus  Desmond  Tutu pdf - 21 September, 2014
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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond TutuArchbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

A statement from
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on 21 September 2014,
International Day of Peace

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu</div>
<p>Desmond Tutu at the 2008 Freedom Awards.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

On World Peace Day 2014, I pray for the rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia to determine their own destiny.

It is a severe indictment on Australia that many of its indigenous people still feel that their culture and dignity are being eroded, and that they continue to be treated as second class citizens – 42 years after the country signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Aboriginal elders say that although the Aboriginal Land Rights Act of 1976 transferred control of much of the Northern Territory to Aboriginal peoples, the people never had the opportunity to draw true advantage from the land. They were ill prepared to deal with complex Western bureaucracies, and their efforts have been undermined by under-development and neglect.

The imposition of legislation generally known as the Northern Territory Intervention, in
2007 virtually stripped them of their voice.

Community councils have been closed down and management of many aspects of the peoples’ lives has been transferred to non-indigenous institutions. The exclusion of local Aboriginal perspectives from decision-making is directly eroding customs, laws, languages and land-use aspirations. Nearly 50% of the youth in detention in Australia are Aboriginal, although the Aboriginal population constitutes just 3% of the Australian population.

There are no first-class and second-class citizens on earth, just citizens; sisters and brothers of one family, the human family, God’s family. Our diversity is a Gift from God. It strengthens and enriches us.

All people, regardless of their looks, cultures and beliefs – including the Aboriginal Peoples of Australia – are equally entitled to dignity, to justice, and to the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives.

I support those who have called for a Truth and Justice Commission for Aboriginal Peoples to lay bare the horrors of the past and, finally, commence a national healing process for all Australians.

Desmond Tutu: 'Lay bare the horrors of the past'

Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photo: Reuters

Stephanie Wood Sydney Morning Herald 21 September 21, 2014

South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu has supported calls for a truth and justice commission to expose "the horrors of the past" suffered by Aboriginal Australians.

In a statement released for World Peace Day on Sunday, the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town said it should be followed by a "national healing process for all Australians".

Aboriginal elders Djiniyini Gondarra, senior Dhurili clan leader of the Yolngu peoples of north-east Arnhem Land, and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, a former Anglican nun based in Utopia in Central Australia, wrote to the archbishop this month to express their concerns about the slow movement towards indigenous self-determination.

"I pray for the rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia to determine their own destiny," the archbishop said. "It is a severe indictment on Australia that many of its indigenous peoples still feel that their culture and dignity are being eroded and that they continue to be treated as second-class citizens.

"Community councils have been closed down and management of many aspects of the peoples' lives has been transferred to non-indigenous institutions. The exclusion of local Aboriginal perspectives from decision-making is directly eroding customs, laws, languages and land-use aspirations.

"The imposition of legislation generally known as the Northern Territory intervention in 2007 virtually stripped them of their voice."

"The archbishop has been one of my heroes and it is an answer to my prayer that the archbishop has responded and taken it seriously," Ms Kunoth-Monks said.

"Forty-two years after becoming a signatory to the UN's International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Australian government policy has still not seriously looked at human rights whereas the first people are concerned."

Mrs Kunoth-Monks said some form of truth commission should be considered. "I certainly am calling for a national journey for that truth and justice, bringing in the history of all the horrors and the assaults that are continuing under the government's policies," she said.

"The wounds are still open and raw."

Sovereign Union drafted a letter and arranged for it to be delivered by hand to Bishop Tutu early this year: pdf SU Letter to Bishop TuTu - 7 February 2014 pdf