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World Council of Churches Living Letters Visit - 20-9-10

Media Statement - World Council of Churches Living Letters Visit from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission of theNational Council of Churches in Australia - 20 September 2010


World Council of Churches Living Letters Visit


The World Council of Churches' Living Letters visit to Australia has now concluded in Darwin, Northern Territory (NT). The team spent the past week visiting communities at Galiwink'u, Mapuru, Wadeye, Hermannsburg, Amoonguna and Mount Nancy Town Camps. They also spoke to students at Nungalinya College and Aboriginal Anglican clergy from around the NT diocese who were meeting in Darwin.

The team released a statement with their initial observations expressing gratitude to the people who generously gave of their time to meet with them and who shared their stories.The visit has been a profound experience for all team members. Some expressed shock at what they saw and heard saying, "we did not realise this was still happening in Australia". Particular concern was expressed about the discrimination, oppression and racism observed during the visit.

As Indigenous and marginalised peoples themselves, the team were able to connect the stories and experiences they heard about on-going colonisation and systemic racism in Australia with their own experiences. Just as Jesus challenged the lawmakers and Pharisees of his time the Living Letters team challenged "these unjust and racist structures and systems and question the Australian lawmakers about how they conduct their business..."

The team particularly commented on the failure of the Federal Government to "reset the relationship" with Aboriginal people as it had promised to do. In fact, the team heard in every place that life has not improved under the Intervention, but rather it has deteriorated. There is despair, anguish and confusion in communities.

There is, however, strong resistance shown in communities. The team observed that the "oldest living, surviving culture in the entire world" has not been crushed". They further commented that, "The will of the people to stand up for their rights has heartened us and inspired us to action".

Each member of the The Living Letters team committed to speak out and tell the world about what they had seen and heard in Australia. They also urged the National Council of Churches in Australia and the World Council of Churches to take action to support the rights of Aboriginal peoples. Their final message was, "To our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters we say, ‘your fight is our fight' ".

NATSIEC would like to express its sincere thanks to each member of the Living Letters team for their dedication and enthusiasm during the visit and for listening to Aboriginal people with an open mind and an open heart. We look forward to receiving your full report in due course.

To arrange media comment:
Graeme Mundine NATSIEC 0419 238 788

World Council of Churches - Statement on the Situation of Indigenous Peoples of Australia - 22 February 2011 -

The full Living Letters NATSIEC and WCC statements are also available at or you may click here

For NATSIEC's briefing for WCC Living Letters Visit: please click here

NATSIEC: WCC Living Letters Visit as well as background to the visit:

Background Briefing for the WCC Living Letters visit to the NT: please click here

For NATSIEC's Media statement at the start of the visit: Please click here

For the report from Mapuru, a small homeland that was visited earlier this week [week of 13 Sept 2010] by delegates from the World Council of Churches - please click here

Media Coverage:

National Council of Churches in Australia - World Council of Churches voices its concern over the plight of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People - 24 March 2011 - The WCC urges the Australian Government to engage in proper consultation and negotiation processes which are genuinely inclusive of Aboriginal Peoples, which will better empower and enable them to identify their own aspirations, issues of concern and which will involve their full participation in creating and implementing solutions. -

Anglican Diocese of Melbourne - World Council of Churches condemns NT's indigenous "Intervention" - 24 March 2011 - The World Council of Churches (WCC) has issued a strong statement condemning many aspects of the Australian federal government's "Intervention" into indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, which began in 2007 under the Coalition and continues today under the Labor government. -

The Catholic Leader - Territory shame - 26 September 2010 -AUSTRALIA'S "shameful treatment" of indigenous people in remote Northern Territory communities has been exposed during a six-day fact-finding mission by local and international visitors, a prominent Aboriginal Catholic leader has said. -

ABC Local Sunday Nights - The N.T. Intervention under scrutiny - 19 September 2010 - The World Council of Churches visit is at the invitation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission of the National Council of Churches of Australia. It is part of a process leading up to the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation to be held in Jamaica in 2011. Once again Australia's treatment of its indigenous population will be under the glare of a world spotlight.

World Council of Churches - Aboriginal elder and church leaders welcome Living Letters team to Australia - 13 September 2010 -

Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney - Action Not Words Needed Says Indigenous Leader - 13 September 2010 -

NATSIEC's Blog - Living Letters team welcomed to Larrakia Country - 12 September 2010 -

NATSIEC's Blog - WCC Living Letters Team gathers in Darwin - 12 September 2010 -

Overcoming Violence - Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace - WCC Living Letters team to visit Indigenous Peoples of Australia - 19 August 2010 -

NATSIEC's Blog - WCC ‘Living Letters' team to examine the impact of the NT Intervention - 17 August 2010 -

International Ecumenical Peace Convocation - Living Letters solidarity visit to Australia - 12 - 17 September -