WCC Delegation to Address Concerns of Australia Indigenous

An ecumenical delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC) will be visiting Australia next month to address the adverse effects the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) act has had on the country's indigenous people.

Passed in August 2007, the NTER was originally enacted to address claims of rampant child sexual abuse and neglect in the territory.

The law's provisions, however, suspended the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 and made it legal for authorities to force Aboriginal communities to lease out their land and to take over Aboriginal service providers.

Groups such as the United Nations and the Australian Human Rights Commission have expressed concern about the measure.

"We feel that there is an urgent need to shine a light on the impact of the NTER on Aboriginal people," said the Rev. Tara Curlewis, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Australia (NCCA), which invited the WCC. "We welcome the arrival of an international and neutral team to listen, learn and bear witness to the situation for Aboriginal people in the [Northern Territory]."

The WCC team, known as a "Living Letters" delegation, will be comprised of a diverse grouping of Methodist, Anglican, Orthodox, and Lutheran officials hailing from Latin America, the United States, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Zealand. Several local WCC delegates will also be joining.

A Living Letters team previously visited the region in 1981 to address issues such as land rights, education, health, and unemployment for the Aborigines. The NCCA said that the group's independent viewpoint was valuable in helping them to see how they can help improve the situation.

"From this [previous meeting] our relations with Indigenous people have improved with better co-operation and representation within Churches," the NCCA said in a statement. "It is our hope and prayer that a similar outcome can be achieved by a contemporary visit, particularly in relation to the NTER."

The Living Letters' meeting is scheduled from September 12-17, 2010.

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