Archived News Item

40 Days of Action for 40 Years of Inaction

Forty years ago, in 1967, 90.77 per cent of the Australian population voted in a referendum which finally made Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people citizens of their own country. The referendum, which amended the Constitution, allowed the Federal Government to make national laws in relation to Aboriginal people; previously laws were only made by the States. In addition, Aborigines were counted in the census, which also gave them citizenship rights such as the vote and freedom of movement.


Forty years later we can see there have been many changes and achievements for Indigenous people, but sadly the condition that many Aboriginals still live in is not something to celebrate. Life expectancy is 17years less than other citizens of Australia; traditional lands, languages and cultural practices remain under threat and Indigenous participation in areas such as education and the labour force remain lower than for other Australians.


Forty years ago the nation united and stood up for Aborigines; nothing less than that level of commitment today will end Indigenous Poverty. Join us and take 40 days of action for 40 years of inaction and help to Make Indigenous Poverty History today.


February 13 – Day of Political Action

On February 13, 1965 the Freedom Rides began and on February 21, the so called Moree “˜riots’ were sparked as a result. To commemorate this act of political protest we have named February 13 as a day to take political action. You can do this by writing to the Minister and demanding action on Indigenous poverty.


Send the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs a Boiled Lolly. Why a boiled lolly?


The following is an edited transcript of an interview with Bishop Saibo Mabo, Anglican Bishop of the Torres Strait:


When I was a school boy, the government used to go around, we used to call him a protector. Protector his name, good name alright. He goes around everywhere in a boat and we made a good welcome for him, Oh, even we carried the dingy when the reef is dry we carry the dingy and let him walk over there – right through. We dance, we entertain him. Nothing happened to us. When he go visit us in the school he carry boiled lolly. And he give us the lolly and we eat the lolly. We suck the lolly and he went and shoved the lolly into our father’s mouth, our mother’s and our brother’s and sister’s and grandma’s and grandpa’s. We all suck the lollies. And he come back again and he do it for every islands when he go around. When I was at Nungalyina College I interpret that lolly. That lolly was meant for me, what the government gave us. He give the lolly, you suck the lolly, the taste finished. That what the government is – doing and today that’s what he been doing all the time. He make you glad and he make you sorry again. He hurt you. He make you happy only for a while like you sucking that boiled lolly. And that was my interpretation of that boiled lolly.


Bishop Saibo Mabo uses this story to highlight the fact that too often policies made, supposedly for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, are short-term and do little to address the needs of the people who are supposed to benefit from them.


Aligning policy development to measurable and time limited goals is one way of addressing this issue which is why we are advocating the commitment to an Australian version of the Millennium Development Goals.


We are sending the Minster boiled lollies to remind him that short-term solutions which look good and which may bring short term sweetness are not what Indigenous Peoples are after, they have had too many broken promises in the past. What is needed is long term solutions developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address the needs and priorities identified by them.




For further information about 40 Days of Action campaign. CLICK HERE.


The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission (NATSIEC) is the peak ecumenical Indigenous body in Australia. It is part of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA).


From: Specific Issues Committee, Indigenous Concerns (Sisters Rose Glennen and Liz Rothe)


Contact: Carmel Heagerty RSM, Institute Justice Co-ordinator