Social Justice aims to overcome systemic and prejudicial behaviours that create disadvantage and prevent people having the opportunity to better themselves and contribute to society. Indigenous peoples are historically most adversely affected.
Issues Affecting Indigenous People
In relation to indigenous peoples in Australia key areas of disadvantage include:
· housing; and
Underneath this are contributing factors of exclusion and injustice, including a lack of opportunity, support and encouragement, which prevent them from participating and contributing as full members of society.
At local levels, groups could consider simple strategies to begin to reduce these barriers.
One example might be to erect a flagpole to allow flying of the aboriginal flag, which would immediately indicate that this is a place of welcome and acceptance. This could be linked to other activities happening at schools (see below).
The underlying principle for good Social Justice Policy is a preferential approach of fostering self-help strategies, rather than simply a reliance upon a welfare approach. This preference is increasingly expressed by aboriginal community leaders. It also means that an effective, realistic community consultation process should be undertaken with local communities, to identify both the issues that should be addressed as a priority, and how to go about implementing them.
In relation to Catholic social justice concerns, including local community groups and parishes, this approach could include strategies of making links through catholic schools, to raise awareness. For example, Aboriginal elders could be invited to come and teach aspects of their culture to the students, and also to use that as a basis for including members of the wider community who may be interested in participating in this process.
In considering this, we need to be sensitive to and give proper consideration to Aboriginal spirituality – including connections to the land, tribe, family and ancestors. So, in relation to Catholic spirituality, we need to be conscious of ways to reconcile the two traditions, applying due respect for this.
For example, in such groups and their gatherings, ways could be found to connect with this heritage. Professor Lyn Henderson-Yates, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Broome campus of Notre Dame University, uses the following simple activity with her students:
“Go outside, take off your shoes, walk on the ground. By walking on the ground you are absorbing over 50,000 years of rich culture: the songs, the stories, the births and deaths, the laughter and the tears of Aboriginal people are rising up through your feet.”
This activity could be done at prayer gatherings, to bring people together at the start of a prayer meeting, and as a form of raising awareness and preparing the group to sensitively enter into a time of joint prayer.
Links & Resources
· National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee http://www.naidoc.org.au/