Leading Indigenous groups have issued a joint statement to express their “major concern” at the lack of a specific mention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or acknowledgement of their traumatic history with institutions in the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.
The statement followed a Roundtable meeting in Sydney of the:
- National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
- Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC)
- National Stolen Generations Alliance
- First Peoples Disability Network (Australia)
- National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum.
The statement calls on the Federal Government to provide funding so Aboriginal community controlled organisations can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people providing evidence to the Commission, whose stories must not just bear witness to their experiences but “lead to reforms in policy, systems, attitudes, resources and service delivery”.
See the full statement below and this report in The Australian.
Joint Statement from Congress member organisations on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse:
The absence of specific mention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, or acknowledgement of the traumatic history of our Peoples’ involvement with institutions in the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference is a major concern.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people expect to see genuine, lasting and significant change as a result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.
A large number of recommendations of the Bringing Them Home inquiry have not been implemented. It is critical that this Royal Commission focus on changing the conditions that led to this abuse occurring and ensuring protection for children in the future.
We send a strong and united message to Commissioners that bearing witness to our Peoples’ stories is valuable but achieving real change is more important.
The Roundtable agreed on the following principles that the Commission should consider in its deliberations:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a long history of contact with Australia’s institutions which must be recognised by the Commission.
- The stories of our peoples must not be overlooked; their experiences must contribute to the findings of the inquiry.
- The Commission must engage broadly and appropriately with our communities, taking into account the cultural and social aspects of our peoples in order to engage effectively.
- It is critical that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are offered culturally appropriate, competent support before, during and after the inquiry.
- The Commission should fund research and support our organisations to provide relevant policy information and expertise.
Our people are being asked to talk about experiences of the abuse. They need to be confident that telling their stories will lead to reforms in policy, systems, attitudes, resources and service delivery
Our organisations are best placed to deliver these services yet when the Government provided funding for support services it only went to large mainstream non Aboriginal NGOS.
Staff from the Commission visited our Roundtable today and praised the stolen generations organisations they had worked with in the Kimberley for their role supporting community members to come before the Commission. This and many other services around the country need more resources to do their work.
The meeting calls upon the Government to immediately provide adequate funding to Aboriginal community controlled organisations to provide much needed services to meet current demand across states and territories.
Our Peoples were removed from their families and locked up in institutions with major trans-generational consequences for the individuals involved, their families, their children and whole communities.
Still today our Peoples are massively over-represented in out of home care, juvenile justice and gaol.
It is essential that the Commissioners support our Peoples to tell their stories; listen to our people’s experiences; and ensure their recommendations reflect the issues and concerns we raise.