Thursday, 29 October 2009

The Asylum Seekers and Refugees are being pesky again: what are we going to do?

Australia's answer for those seeking asylum:
the Christmas Island Detention Centre
in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia.
Photo from here.

Australia is once again facing an immigration crisis. We are a sparsely populated country of 23 million people but we are facing a crisis: a crisis of attitude, a crisis of memory. 

Over at God's Politics, the blog of Jim Wallis and friends, there is a significant post by the Rev Anne Dunlap. While I would like you to visit Jim's blog, I have taken the great liberty of snitching the post in its entirety here - and hoping that Jim and Anne don't mind.

Australia, under the Howard Government and now the Rudd Government, is giving every indication of ignorance and forgetfulness of the Abrahamic traditions of the majority of its immigrant population. As Paul Howes remarked yesterday, the language has become low rent. Both Howard and Rudd - in particular, Rudd - profess Christian beliefs.  Both are Anglicans.  Each of them, in the lead up to the 2007 Federal election, courted the Christian vote in a manner never seen in Australia before - and certainly never from the Australian Labor Party.  Australians, particularly politicians, don't usually wear their religion on their sleeve - until these early days of the 21st century.

While they and we forget our God-reminded ethics, 
the Christian vote is not worth two-bob. 
It seems to me that most lucid and outspoken - gently outspoken - Christian voice in Australia is that of the beloved Bishop Pat Power.


‘You Shall Not Oppress an Immigrant’

by Anne Dunlap 10-16-2009
These remarks were presented on October 13, 2009 at a press conference in Aurora, CO urging Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) to take a public stand in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. The event was one of hundreds of actions across the country taking place that day as part of the Reform Immigration For America campaign and in support of Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s (D-IL) presentation of principles for immigration reform. Aurora recently won an award for being an “All-America City,” and has an ICE detention facility.

Good afternoon.
I’m Rev. Anne Dunlap. I’m honored to be here in support of comprehensive immigration reform on this day of national action. I am the pastor of Comunidad Liberación/Liberation Community UCC here in Aurora, a faith community made up of immigrants whose points of entry range from Plymouth Rock in the east to the Sonoran Desert in the west. Each week when we gather together for worship we pray for a change in the heart of this country, that there would be immigration reform that assures that all people are treated with respect and dignity.

In the Christian faith tradition we turn to our sacred text to help us understand what kind of community our Creator calls us to be. We read, for example, that the people of Israel were immigrants in the land of Egypt. Generations earlier, they had left their homeland because of famine. They left their homeland and immigrated to Egypt in order to be able to feed their families, in order to be sure their children had a better future. But you may know the story: In Egypt they became slaves – as the text says, “The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service … [they] were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them” (Exodus 1:13-14).

The Israelites lived an oppressed and exploited life; even their children lived under the threat of death. Even the liberator, Moses, knew the pain of being a child separated from his mother when the Egyptian equivalent of ICE swept in to threaten the Israelite community.

When the Israelites were liberated from slavery, God gave them instruction in how not to become like Egypt, and one of the constant themes of that instruction is summed up in this verse from Exodus: “You shall not oppress an immigrant; you know the heart of an immigrant, for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9). To not become like Egypt, they are to remember the immigrant’s heart: a heart full of strength, wanting only to work hard to assure that their families and their communities will survive hard times.

We, here and now, in a nation of immigrants, in this “All-America City,” have forgotten the heart of an immigrant. We have become Egypt in the “ruthless tasks we impose,” through policies of death, fear, and exploitation:
  • policies that tear families apart, parent from hungry child, partner from frightened partner,
  • policies that disappear parents, partners, and children into a detention system in which violates their rights at every turn,
  • policies that depend on employers stealing wages from mothers and fathers who need that wage to feed their children,
  • policies that force desperate mothers into the Arizona desert to die with their babies still suckling at their breast.
As we as a nation consider the need for comprehensive immigration reform, the faith community urges all of us today, across the country, to turn back from the ways of Egypt and remember the heart of the immigrant. It is our own heart, a heart of strength wanting only to work hard to assure our families, all our families, and our communities, all our communities, will survive hard times, with dignity honored and justice protected.

Remember the heart of the immigrant.
Thank you.

portrait-rev-anne-dunlapRev. Anne Dunlap is the pastor of Comunidad Liberación/Liberation Community in Aurora, CO, a bilingual, multi-cultural base community in the Christian tradition, striving to live faithfully, to embody God’s vision of the beloved community, and to resist joyfully oppression and injustice. Comunidad is a ministry of Mayflower UCC in Englewood, CO.

Further reading:
Triumph turns to fiasco on the high seas
Sri Lankan asylum seeks 'refuse to leave boat'

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Northern Territory - a failed state or merely a challenged state?

For some people, all they ever get to know about the Northern Territory is the advertising campaigns to attract tourists and stories of Aboriginal disadvantage.  Some people set off up the track in caravans but don't enter into Territory life and so gain little understanding of Territory ways.  For many, including quite a slice of Territory inhabitants, it will come as a bit of a shock to hear the Territory described as a Failed State.  If you don't think that rings true, you might like to go along with Gerry Woods and his description of a challenged state

For me, I'll stick with the first because I agree with virtually everything that Nicolas Rothwell says in his article.  Many times I will read an article on a subject or a place I know well but the article leaves me feeling that I am residing on a planet of one because my own knowledge is so different from what I read.  Not with Rothwell's article.  He and I inhabit the same reality as far as a description of government and governance in the Northern Territory is concerned. And in case you think this does not concern you, think again.  If  you are a tax-paying Australian, you are propping up relaxed whitefella lifestyles and Aboriginal disadvantage and dislocation in the Northern Territory.  You too can have your tax dollars wasted in the failed Aboriginal housing program known as SIHIP.

Rothwell lays it all on the line from the cossetted and comforted middle and upper classes of Darwin's Northern Suburbs without whom, so the political wisdom goes, government in the NT cannot be won to disadvantaged Aboriginal communities who don't see all the money allocated to their needs by the Federal Government because of siphoning by the NT Government and the bureaucratic padding that is day to day employment in the NT, particularly in mainstream centres outside Darwin.

Miss Eagle's view - after most of a lifetime lived in North Queensland and the Northern Territory and a significant proportion of that lived on the Barkly Tableland, Queensland side and Territory side - is that this has to be seen in the context of historic deprivation by governments of all political persuasions at all levels of remote area communities black and white, with black communities being the worst affected.

Rothwell doesn't say this - but he is not far from saying it.

Let me be quite blunt.  Remote Australia pays a huge price

  • economically, 
  • environmentally, 
  • socially, 
  • infrastructurally, 
  • educationally and in 
  • housing and
  • poor health 
for the governments dominated by the white tribes of the urbanised coastal fringes of Australia.

I emphasise that when I speak of remote Australia I am speaking both of  mainstream and Aboriginal Australians while recognising that the hardest hit are Aboriginal Australians.

I look forward to Rothwell's second instalment when he will outline a new way or ways of governance in the NT.  

Monday, 26 October 2009

Call Jenny Macklin's Office and - while you're at it - the Federal Attorney-General's. Phone numbers below. Tell them what you think.

On 2007, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 was suspended so that the Howard Government could have its wilful way with Aboriginal policy and people in the Northern Territory under the Northern Territory Emergency Response, commonly known as The Intervention.  The Racial Discrimination Act is the legislative means in Australia of giving effect in respect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Rudd Government continued this disgraced Howard Government policy with little or no alteration when it came to power on 24 November, 2007.  The NTER was bad public policy under Howard.  It remains bad public policy under Rudd.  In fact, elements of the policy - such as SIHIP - are failed public policy.  The Rudd Government continued the malignant suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act.
There have only been three times that the Racial Discrimination Act has been suspended from applying since it was passed in 1975 – in relation to the Native Title Amendment Act, in relation to the Hindmarsh Island Bridge dispute and in relation to the Northern Territory intervention. Each time it has been repealed has been so that it cannot provide protection to the most vulnerable within the community.  Quoted from here.
The Rudd Government promised in May this year that the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 would be reinstated in October this.

So here we are.  It is Monday 26 October, 2009.  There has been nary a word this month about the promised reinstatement.  So I did the obvious thing.  
I rang the office of the Minister, Jenny Macklin, in Canberra.  
Please note her phone number is 
02 6277 7560
Please note that telephone protocol is not high on the list of concerns in Macklin's Canberra office.  You don't get names in full nor do you get titles, nor do you get put through to specialist people.  But please persist.  If you don't get a satisfactory reply - as I didn't - it is still a reply.

It was suggested that I call the Attorney-General's office because the A-G was responsible for the legislation.  They helpfully provided me with the number of the Attorney-General's office:
02 6277 7300
I was put through to an Adviser called Liz.  I asked for her full name.  Liz refused - in spite of the fact that at all times I gave my name in full - first name and last.  Courtesies are not considered worth returning in Labor offices, it seems.  I was told that Macklin's office had carriage of the legislation and that it was being worked on and it would be part of a package that was to come before Parliament in the Spring Session.  I was then patched back to Macklin's office who could tell me nothing.  Nothing about the package.  Yes, it is being worked on.  Could I speak to someone in the department working on it?  No.  

For your information, dear Networkers, the remainder of the Spring Session of Parliament is this week beginning 26 October.  Then the next two weeks are breaks.  This leaves two remaining weeks in the Spring Session namely the weeks beginning 16 and 23 November.

Word has come to me  from that well known person "an informed source" while writing this post that if the legislation makes it, it is likely to be on the last day of the Spring Session.  This means that if the usual route through the House of Representatives to the Senate is taken, we could be well into 2010 before the legislation is finally passed.  


Friday, 23 October 2009

Participate - Communicate - Agitate

Picture from here

To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up ...
Each of us must find our work and do it.
Militancy no longer means guns at high noon, if it ever did.
It means actively working for change,
sometimes in the absence of any surety that change is coming.

from her book Sister Outsider


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

No conditions, no excuses, Mr Rudd. Restore the Racial Discrimination Act NOW

Amnesty International has a letter campaign to Kevin Rudd asking for the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act.  Yes, they seem to keep it on a roller blind because this is its third suspension.  Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if this happened to the Sex Discrimination Act?  The suspension was done by the Howard Government and continued by the Rudd Government so they could do what they liked in the Northern Territory with The Intervention.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Anti-Poverty Week 2009: don't just make it a day or a week but a whole month or maybe a year or a lifetime!

I originally did the post here below a week ago. To-day is The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  To mark the occasion and to participate in the event organised by Bloggers Unite, I am putting this post to the top of the blog as well as posting pictures at the top of the blog and the side bar.  Please read and act.

It looks to me like Anti-Poverty Week is a moveable feast this year (well, famine - depending on success). Check out here and here and here.  However, just to make the point that it's what you do not when you do it that counts, there are some events you can get to:

Anti-Poverty Sunday at
Sunday October 11 at 3pm
Bronwyn Darlington, Founder of Rise Up
who will speak about
working in the clothing industry
to assist people living in poverty.
singer/muso Joel Meadows of the Steinbecks.

Click to enlarge

Yhen on October 27 at 6.30pm
you can get in your kayak
and row over to the
Melbourne Rowing Club
Boathouse Street
for The Great Debate

Tickets are limited
so please pre-book your seats
by calling Lara on 9417
7985 or email

Click to enlarge

and you can do this:

Make your $2 work for a better world – find out more and take the pledge!
On October 17 (the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty),
choose Fairtrade and help make poverty history!


What you can do in Anti-Poverty Week 2009

nssWe can make a start by being a part of Anti-Poverty Week 2009. Last year in Anti-Poverty Week an escape artist stripped down to his undies to fight poverty at Flinders St Station in the center of Melbourne. Rather than get arrested, he became the focus of media attention for promoting  No Sweat Shop label and Fairtrade garments (he was wearing Rise Up undies made out of Fairtrade cotton). Such clothes enables  young kids in developing countries to leave the cotton picking industry and return to school (and the model’s ‘attire’ was manufactured in Australia under guaranteed legal minimum wage and conditions). This year there is no need to strip down to your undies like our escape artist, but you can run a barbecue, invite a speaker, hold a forum or play a stunt in aid of strengthening public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia.
All you need to do is 
go to the 
and register your event!
You can also attend an event
 in your local community.

MissEagle racism-free Photobucket

Friday, 16 October 2009

The plagiarists and content kleptomaniacs overturned censorship on Twitter

Further to my post here yesterday, take a look at this extensive piece of censorship in Britain overturned by 104 words on Twitter.  Astonishing!  It is by well known Sydney lawyer, Richard Ackland who, once upon a long ago, used to host Media Watch on ABC Television.

A simple Twitter brings down the mighty cone of silence

October 16, 2009
I hope no one missed this week's legal excitement in London. The British oil trading company Trafigura managed to get a ''super-injunction'' to prevent reporting of the findings into its dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast's biggest city, Abidjan.
Thousands were injured by waste containing tonnes of phenols, hydrogen sulphide, corrosive caustic soda and quantities of mercaptans. Trafigura denied it was dangerous, but nonetheless paid £100 million ($175 million) to the Ivory Coast Government to clean up the mess and agreed to compensation of £1000 each for the 30,000 people made ill.
All this was accompanied by actions for libel and injunctions. Last month The Guardian published claimed evidence that the company tried to conceal the scale of the pollution. Internal emails were cited as showing that staff knew that disposal of the waste could be hazardous.
The media still cannot publish the findings of the Minton Report's investigation of the scandal - one of the most appalling injunctions in recent memory.

What happened next was the explosive bit. A member of the House of Commons placed a question on what we call the notice paper. Labour MP Paul Farrelly asked what measures ministers were taking to protect whistleblowers and press freedom following the injunction obtained by Trafigura.

The oil trader's lawyers were from the law firm Carter-Ruck, much hated by the London media for its attack-dog approach to ''reputational management issues''. A libel lawyer, David Hooper, said on the death of Peter Carter-Ruck in 2003 that ''he did for freedom of speech what the Boston Strangler did for door-to-door salesmen''.

The law firm managed to extract from the court an injunction so wide not even the fact the injunction existed, let along what it was about or the identities of the parties, could be published.

When it became apparent The Guardian might report Farrelly's parliamentary question, the paper received one of the law firm's menacing letters, saying to report the member's question would be a contempt of court.

The paper was reduced to saying it could not identify the MP, the question, or which minister might answer it. ''The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented - for the first time in memory - from reporting parliament.'' All that could be reported was that the case involved ''the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations''.

That was on Monday this week. As Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, left his office that evening he posted this on Twitter: ''Now Guardian prevented from reporting parliament for unreportable reasons. Did John Wilkes live in vain?''

Wilkes was the 18th century journalist and MP instrumental in getting government to accept the right of printers to publish actual accounts of parliamentary proceedings. Arguably, he was the father of political journalism.
Wilkes campaigned for the enforcement of the Bill of Rights of 1689, which granted a lot of civil and political rights, including that ''proceedings of parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament''.
It was imported into Australia and other Commonwealth countries. It is quite amusing to reflect that at the time of its introduction England had been through a period of political upheaval. Opposition to the bill was widespread, particularly by non-Protestants. It was said to be unconstitutional, would lead to chaos and spread uncertainty. Much the same widely misinformed racket accompanies the idea that Australia embrace legislation to give a range of civil and political rights to people outside the magic circle of privileged lawgivers and newspaper shrills.
But Rusbridger's Twitter item set off a chain reaction that was beyond the lawyers and the courts to stop. Out there in blogosphere, the reaction was astounding. Rusbridger said: ''Twitter's detractors are used to sneering that nothing of value can be said in 140 characters. My 104 characters did just fine.''

Twitter users then tracked down Farrelly's question and links to it were published widely.
By midday on Tuesday ''Trafigura'' was among the most searched words in Europe. Stephen Fry re-tweeted everything to his 830,000 followers.

An hour before The Guardian was to go to court to seek permission to publish the question, Trafigura and Carter-Ruck threw in the towel. The new ''other'' media turned a secret into a notorious avalanche of information.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


The Water Cycle Boogie by the Banana Slug String Band...and more

...and for more songs
Please go here


David Dryden of the Yorta Yorta Nation seeks to confront Prime Minister Kevin Rudd next Monday

Yorta Yorta Country -
 northern Victoria and southern New South Wales
David Dryden - Yorta Yorta
It's Our Menu Incorporated
Mobile: 0419662812

Indigenous Yorta Yorta man
to call out Australian Prime Minister

On 19th October at 9am (AEDST) and every day for a week following, David Dryden, a Yorta Yorta man will be outside parliament house Canberra in traditional Victorian Aboriginal dress to call out the Prime Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, in regards to unfinished business for Indigenous people. It is expected that up to 10,000 supporters will join him.
Victorian Aboriginal people, along with their brothers and sisters Australia wide, continue to suffer the effects of colonisation says David Dryden, an Indigenous Yorta Yorta man from the Murray River Region, and while Kevin Rudd's Apology statement opened the door to healing, things need to move faster - overcrowding in housing, poor health, deaths in custody, over representation in prisons and the justice system etc need to be resolved – now, Says Mr. Dryden.
While much of the recent focus has been on problems in the Northern Territory, Mr. Dryden believes that Victorian Aboriginals are being neglected, citing the withdrawal of government funding from the Maya Healing Centre in Melbourne as an example of this neglect. In an attempt to draw attention to the problems which Mr. Dryden says is killing his people and keeping many of them in abject poverty and atrocious living conditions, Mr. Dryden is gathering supporters to call out the Prime Minister from Parliament House so that he can present a petition to the Prime Minister demanding support to create an integrated healing approach for indigenous Victorians.

The Prime Minister himself said, in his Sorry address to the nation, that the old solutions to indigenous problems haven’t worked, says Mr. Dryden, so we are offering new solutions. We want to create healing centres in the bush where families can go to heal and learn skills that will help them live lives in dignity and self respect. At the moment we have some Victorian families living in overcrowded houses, up to 14 people in one house with parents who don’t have the coping skills to get themselves out of this situation. It’s a national disgrace that we have these Third World conditions existing in what is supposed to be one of the most livable cities in the world.

Mr. Dryden will be on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra at 9am on Monday the 19th October dressed in a traditional Victorian possum skin cloak and it is expected that Indigenous people from across the country and their supporters will be in Canberra to join him. David and his supporters will be camped in front of Parliament House for a week or until his voice is heard. International media have been notified of this event.

WORLD FOOD DAY: Achieving food security in times of crisis. A report on a trip to Gippsland, Victoria.

16 October.
is hosting a blogging event
of which this post will form part.

Click to enlarge

On Tuesday 6 October, Belinda, her friend Susan (from Permaculture circles), and I  tripped down to West Gippsland for a food, farmiing and health conference titled
"Nurture the land, Nourish the people..."

This conference was absolutely brilliant.
Sue Webster of Agribusiness Gippsland
with her band of helpers
and the support of Baw Baw Shire
did a marvellous job and showed us
true Gippsland hospitality.
Now below are not my words.
I didn't want to re-invent the wheel.
Sue, in a previous incarnation, was/is a professional journalist.
She precis-ed the conference well in
the latest edition of
Gippy AGchat.

The conference was such an action packed day
I'm not sure if I could report adequately.
Belinda, Susan and I learned heaps.
Networked with lots of interesting people
There were three workshops -
and we were able to divvy these up between us
so we had plenty to chat about on the drive
back to Melbourne.

Conference serves up innovation banquet

Food grown on city wasteland to curb carbon, a Landcare-type movement to save our soils and a Victorian Ministry of Food … those were some of the innovations raised at the ground-breaking Food, Farming and Health conference held in Warragul last week.

About 150 people from interstate and across Victoria came to share visions of nurturing the land while nourishing its people.

The conference, organised by Agribusiness Gippsland, saw speakers from NSW and across Victoria addressing farmers, landholders, water and Landcare representatives, health professionals, teachers, shire and other government delegates.

“It was astonishing how readily these quite-separate groups came together,” said Alex Arbuthnot AM, chair of Agribusiness Gippsland. “It proves that the same issues are top-of-mind across all these sectors.”

Across the audience there was a lot of note-taking going on. During the breaks the buzz of networking was notable. Attendees overwhelmingly returned glowing evaluation forms and many sought another conference next year.

Keynote speaker Andrew Campbell demanded an ‘intersection’ of health policy and agricultural practice for the good of the earth, and the people depending on it.

“We’re not talking climate change but climate chaos,” he warned. “We need to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions; we should shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. We have to increase our water and energy productivity.

“For example, growing corn to produce ethanol makes no sense at all, it requires more energy input than it produces.” (Longer report below)

The State Nutritionist Veronica Graham shared unpublished data showing that the price of healthy food, such as vegetables, fruit and grains had risen about 20% since the introduction of GST, higher than the rise of ‘non-core’ food. “So if you’re trying to eat healthy food that is an issue especially if you’re on a limited income,” she said.

She also expressed concerns about the loss of farmland to housing. “Urban development is displacing food production, for example at Werribee. This is about policy or land planning and I don’t know the degree of control, but it is concerning.”
DPI deputy secretary Bruce Kefford detailed some of the opportunities ahead for agriculture including GPS for more precise tilling, GM for less fertiliser and chemical applications and modifications to feed to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“We need to accelerate change,” he said. “Farmers get demonised and I don’t think that’s fair or smart. They’re already part of the solution.” (Longer report below)

Sue Brumby, Director of the National Centre for Farmer Health, warned of the looming “tsunami” of diabetes, especially in rural areas. In Loddon Shire, for example, one person in 10 suffers from the condition.

She praised the conference organisers, led by Gippsland beef farmer Jenny Sullivan.

“It’s just fantastic to see a conference like this,” Ms Brumby said.

Her praise was echoed by Prof Linda Tapsell of the University of Wollongong. She had declined an overseas speaking engagement to attend the Warragul event.

“The situation you now face is for this small region to put it all together and see if you can do something about it,” she told the audience.

The full-day conference included a range of other speakers discussing, among other things:

• Food gardens reclaimed from urban waste ground or roof tops.
• Declining reserves of phosphorus, the world’s major agricultural fertiliser.
• How two people feed 50 families from an acre in Healesville.
• The hazards and heartbreaks of establishing an organic retail business.
• The need to grow pest predators to replace chemicals.

“And much else besides,” Mr Arbuthnot added. “And the day featured a Gippsland- sourced, healthy lunch – proving you eat what you are and you are what you eat!”

The conference was funded by VicHealth, Baw Baw Shire Council, the DPI, DSE and West Gippsland CMA.

Vision, cohesion and revolt needed: Campbell

Policymakers have left Australia’s rural communities ‘way exposed’ Andrew Campbell told the conference.

The keynote speaker said: “We haven’t created the right frameworks in research, policy and education we’ve left our rural communities way exposed. Our cross-system learning across the boundaries is very, very poor and the general literacy is abysmal across bureaucracy and across corporate boardrooms

“I think we need to revolt direct action at a local level and showing lots of little candles in the darkness, that’s the most powerful thing we can do. You need to use the media and engage some celebrities. In my view there’s a lot of the jigsaws there and these are more likely to be put together coherently at the local level.”

During question time Malcolm Cock, a beef farmer from Hallston asked if it could be possible to decouple food production from economics.

Andrew replied: “I can’t see how we can get economics out of anything, frankly. That’s the system we’re in. But the bigger challenge we’ve got is making the market economics more closely reflect the energy reflected in the price, the more we can get a real price paid by the consumers. I believe food prices need to go up very substantially, although we need to look at that from an equity point of view.”

Considering future development, he said: “It’s a nonsense not to have an integrated approach for transport for water and for power. No one’s going to plant biofuels if they don’t know where the processing plant will be. And no one is going to build a plant if they haven’t security of supply, and then both need transport … we need to integrate all these things. Silos of information exist but agriculture, health and environmental policy should intersect and that’s where we should be putting resources, that’s why this conference is so important.”

He praised the conference for “seeing agriculture as part of the food system and consequently part of the health system and seeing how those things all link together.”

Carbon’s role in the future food supply menu

Anyone planning to supply cost-competitive foods to the future marketplace will have to be a low-emission operation.

Climate change is going to change the economics of food production and delivery, according to an industry expert.

Kirsten Larsen, from the University of Melbourne’s Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab, said In Australia food accounts for 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions. “And that doesn’t include cooking or transporting foods,” she added. That figure compares with 20% from heating and energy outputs and 10% from transport.

She noted that urbanisation is pushing food production further from markets, requiring more freighting. “Emissions from freight are increasing faster than most sectors,” she said. “About 12% of total tonnage is for food and food is travelling further than most other things. In addition fertilisers constitute about 15% of the total weight of what’s travelling through the transport system.”

Other challenges facing food production in the future include shortages of land and fertiliser. There were reports, she said that phosphate rock supply might have peaked.

“If we want to feed 9bn people how much grain will be fed for animals and how much for people. What will we use our land for and who gets to eat? Assuming a linear increase in meat consumption is not going to be coherent with response to climate change,” she warned.

The answer to these could lie with what she described as “food-sensitive urban design” or “how do we produce food in cities for people who live in cities?”

She noted rainfall lost to runoff and organic waste lost to landfill as potential reuseable resources.

She offered examples in the US of small vegetable plots in urban wasteland and of

commercial rooftop horticulture in New York.

She also suggested community-supported agriculture, where consumers transact with farmers more directly – even to joint ownership or leasing deals. “Farmers are carrying a lot of the risk and farmers are the price takers. How do people in the city support this? The community-supported agricultural model might help,” she said. “There’s lots of exciting things happening on the ground but how do we pull this together to get a clear message to government?”

Changes to make gains: DPI boss

Bruce Kefford, the DPI’s deputy secretary scored a lot of approvals in the end-of-day evaluation forms with his vision of farming in the future.

He stressed the opportunities available amid challenging change.

Among the highlights he listed were the use of GPS for pinpoint sowing, fertiliser application and weed control, greater irrigation and water use efficiencies and integrated pest management – using bio-enemies such as competing organisms or buffer crops.

Acknowledging opposition, he also praised research into GM. “It offers some tremendous opportunities when safely and legally used to solve some problems,” he said. He offered the example of research investigating inserting rust resistant barley genes into wheat.

“If there’s no rust on wheat we won’t have to use chemicals,” Bruce said. “This is the sort of benefit we can achieve. The way we get some of our best insights is to go to nature and get some ideas into how to solve a problem.”

He also praised work on methane reduction in ruminant animals. “To my complete surprise I found we have worked out, from our early work on feeds, that we can reduce methane and increase yield,” he said. “We’ve dropped the methane production of cows by 20% and increased production and we haven’t even looked at how the rumen of the cow can be modified.”

He added: “The most important thing we can do is provide a range of healthy foods”, specifying grains of lower GI and leaner lambs.

“We need to accelerate change,” he said. “Farmers get demonised and I don’t think that’s fair or right. They’re already part of the solution.”

During question time, he was asked his thoughts of giving agriculture a wider scope – and possibly a bigger labour catchment – by renaming the Department of Primary Industries the Department of Food.

He replied: “We’re a sector that’s more comfortable quietly getting on with the job and that brings with it the cost of being undervalued. This could be working against us.”


Thursday, 15 October 2009

Make Indigenous Poverty History: October news from NATSIEC

Statement on Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act NT
9th October 2009

The Executive of the Council of Churches of Western Australia (CCWA) welcomes the move of the Federal Government to reinstate of the Racial Discrimination Act in the Northern Territory, and calls for the Federal Government to go further to review all Aboriginal policies to ensure that they are in line with Australia's international obligations, especially those now involved with the Northern Territory Intervention.

UN Special Rapporteur Professor James Anaya has pointed out that the Northern Territory Intervention, in its current form and in its delivery, "is incompatible with Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Australia is a party to both treaties.
The intervention is also incompatible with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Australia supports".The CCWA Executive represents many Christian churches in Western Australia, whose gospel values encourage us to treat all people with equity and justice.
We acknowledge the goodwill of governments in attempting to address decades of neglect in the areas of Aboriginal policy, planning and service delivery. However, we believe it is the duty and responsibility of government to ensure that legislation, policies and actions comply in all respects with international treaties and obligations to which Australia is signatory or for which it has declared its support.

Furthermore, the Executive of the CCWA calls on governments to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal peoples, in a way that respects and recognizes the differing needs of each community. We uphold the right, and necessity, of Aboriginal people to be directly involved in the development and decision-making processes that lead to the development of services and policies that will affect their lives.
The Executive of the Council of Churches of WA calls upon Prime Minister Rudd to ensure that Professor Anaya's report will be viewed as a valuable contribution to expert policy advice.
Council of Churches WA


Victorian Council of Churches

The Executive of the Victorian Council of Churches (VCC) calls upon the Federal Government to take the opportunity provided by the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act to review all Aboriginal policies to ensure that they are in line with Australia's international obligations.

UN Special Rapporteur Professor James Anaya has pointed out that the Northern Territory Intervention, in its current form and in its delivery, "is incompatible with Australia's obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Australia is a party to both treaties. The intervention is also incompatible with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Australia supports".

The VCC Executive could draft an alternative set of principles to guide our statement based on the Gospel to which we bear witness. However, we join Prof Anaya in drawing attention to commitments made by successive Australian Governments to those principles articulated in UN Treaties.
The Executive of the VCC acknowledges the goodwill of governments in attempting to address decades of neglect in the areas of Aboriginal policy, planning and service delivery. However, the VCC also believes it is the duty and responsibility of government to ensure that legislation, policies and actions comply in all respects with obligations to which Australia is signatory or for which it has declared its support.
Furthermore, the Executive of the VCC calls on governments to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal peoples, in a way that respects and recognises the differing needs of each community. We uphold the right, and necessity, of Aboriginal people to be directly involved in the development and decision-making processes that lead to the development of services and policies that will affect their lives.
The Executive of the Victorian Council of Churches calls upon Prime Minister Rudd to ensure that Professor Anaya's report will be viewed as a valuable contribution to expert policy advice.
As a nation Australia is being called upon to make changes to Aboriginal policy in line with accepted world principles. The world will judge us by our preparedness to act.
Victorian Council of Churches


NATSIEC made a written submission to the Special Rapporteur raising our concerns about the NT Intervention. We also released a statement supporting Anaya's findings. Both these statements can be downloaded from our website.

Are you on the bus?

Graeme Mundine, Executive Secretary of NATSIEC, recently delivered a speech to the United Faculty of Theology. Borrowing an analogy from 'practical black theologian' Dr Anthony G. Reddie, Graeme explained that he sees the bus analogy as a useful tool to help us explore our relationship with Church and with each other. He also said that the image resonates with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as they grapple with the decision of whether to get on the bus. To read the full speech click here.
Latest Reports

is available from the AIATSIS website.

Bilingual education in the Northern Territory has long been a controversial issue, no more so than in the past year when significant changes and statements have been made to NT Indigenous language and education policies. Much of the public debate has been ill-informed and generated mis-information and confusion. AIATSIS have recently released an informative discussion paper which helps cut through the myths and explains the history and background to bilingual education. It analyses the current policy debates and presents information about some of the facts. The discussion paper is a helpful contribution and certainly addresses some of the issues and fallacies that we have encountered during our lobbying efforts.

Can you help send
Indigenous youth
to participate in an
International ecumenical
youth gathering?
In February 2010, NATSIEC is supporting three Indigenous youth to attend a youth meeting organised by Taizé. We want to raise $5,000 to cover the cost of enabling their participation in this worthwhile event.


Pilgrimage of trust in the Philippines

The meeting in Manila in February 2010 will be a new stage in the "Pilgrimage of trust on earth", begun by Taizé's founder, the late Brother Roger. This will be the fifth meeting of its kind in Asia, following meetings organized by Taizé in Chennai (Madras), India, in 1985 and 1988, Manila, Philippines in 1991, and Kolkata, India in 2006.
The pilgrimage has as a general theme "inner life and human solidarity". The aim of the meeting is to support young people in their search for God and in their desire to commit themselves in the Church and society. Trust, peace, and reconciliation will be central themes of the upcoming meeting.
The daily program will consist of prayer together and sharing: in the mornings, in the parishes and religious communities of Metro Manila, and from midday onwards all together in a central place. Participants will be accommodated in families, local parishes, and religious communities.
From the news wire...

14th October 2009 -

Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people around the country will be able to learn more about their human rights as well as their rights as Indigenous peoples and how best to use them to help their communities, with the launch of a new practical guide. The guide, 'Free and Equal' has been produced by Oxfam Australia and the Diplomacy Training Program. The aim of the guide is to provide a practical resource for Indigenous community advocates to learn more about their rights, and the responsibilities of Australian governments and officials to respect, protect and fulfill these rights. People can request copies of "Free and Equal" by contacting Natasha Newman at Oxfam Australia on 03 9289 9372 or email
8th October 2009 -

Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, released the report of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee. In December 2008 the Rudd Government asked the Committee to conduct a nationwide Consultation to examine the protection and promotion of human rights and responsibilities in Australia. The report contains 31 recommendations and provides important information about what we do well and assesses options for addressing the areas where we can do better. Overwhelmingly, the report finds that Australians support the protection of human rights. They also, however, believe more can be done.
8th October 2009 -

A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that although levels of overcrowding and access to essential services, such as power, water and sewerage improved for Indigenous Australian households during the period 2001-2006, homelessness and affordability levels remained about the same, and the overall condition of dwellings deteriorated. The report Indigenous housing needs 2009: a multi-measure needs model presents a model of Indigenous housing need based on AIHW analysis of data from the 2006 Census, the ABS Community Housing Infrastructure and Needs Survey, and the Commonwealth Rent Assistance program. It estimates that around 10,000 additional dwellings were required in 2006 to address Indigenous housing need, including homelessness, affordability, access to essential services, dwelling condition, and notably, to reduce overcrowding.
7th October 2009 -
New research by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has shown that between 2001 and 2008 the adult Indigenous imprisonment rate rose by 37 percent in Australia and 48 percent in New South Wales. Over the same period the non-Indigenous rate of imprisonment in NSW rose by only seven per cent. One quarter of the increase in Indigenous imprisonment in NSW has come from a growth in the number of Indigenous persons held on remand. Three quarters of the growth is associated with a growth in the number of sentenced Indigenous prisoners.
6th October -

Five new, permanent police stations will be built in Northern Territory priority locations under an agreement between the Australian and Northern Territory Governments. The Australian Government has allocated more than $50 million over three years to the Northern Territory Government to build the stations in Gapuwiyak, Ramingining, Yarralin, Arlparra and Imanpa. The locations were selected on the advice of the Northern Territory Police Commissioner. The Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin and the Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson said the new police stations would strengthen the police presence across the Northern Territory.

6th October 2009 -

The Northern Territory Government has launched a new strategy to lift development, create jobs and bring Indigenous Territorians into the broader economy. The Minister for Regional Development Karl Hampton today released the Northern Territory Indigenous Economic Development Strategy 2009-2012. The Chief Minister Paul Henderson said the strategy will guide and encourage economic development in the regions and is vital for Indigenous advancement.

2nd October 2009 -

Five new children and family centres will be established across Western Australia by 2014 in an ambitious move to vastly improve education and health outcomes for Aboriginal children in the next decade. Education Minister Liz Constable said the first centre would be established in Halls Creek, with the building scheduled for completion by the end of 2010. Facilities in Fitzroy Crossing, Kununurra, Roebourne and the Swan region would follow. The centres would be established in areas of disadvantaged population, in particular Aboriginal families, and included early childhood learning and care; pre-pregnancy; antenatal; teenage health services; and maternal and child health services. These would effectively give families a one-stop shop for their early education and health needs.
We would like to thank TEAR Australia for the free subscription to their news service.

2009 Martung Upah Appeal

is an initiative of the

Other projects run by NATSIEC include the Indigenous Theology project and a development fund.

NATSIEC receives significant funding from Act for Peace and the Uniting Church (NSW) 2% fund, however the rest of our funding comes from donations by Churches and Individuals to its annual appeal Martung Upah*.

By supporting the Martung Upah appeal you are joining us in a partnership to engage Churches and the wider community in fostering a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Together we can work towards healing the hurts of the past and building a better tomorrow for all our children so that injustice and discrimination will not be part of Australia's future.

We thank you for your support.
To download go to the Martung Upah Appeal webpage click here.
To go direct to the online donation page click here
* Martung Upah is from Western Australia and means partnership.

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