Wilcannia-Forbes Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE has travelled to Canberra to urge federal politicians to address the difficulties many Indigenous Australians face, to talk about the challenges the drought brings to people in his diocese and to call for action on youth suicide.
Bishop Macbeth-Green, who is chairman of the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, met with senior figures last week, including Senator Patrick Dodson and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, one of the three local MPs in the bishop’s sprawling diocese, which covers 52 per cent of New South Wales.
He told politicians that rising suicide rates and the “unacceptable” gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on key measures like health, employment and education are among the key concerns the Australian bishops have for their country.
Bishop Macbeth-Green also spoke with Senator Dodson, chair of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, about the need to make progress towards constitutional recognition of Australia’s First Nations peoples.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to meet with Senator Dodson and the enriching conversation that we had,” Bishop Macbeth-Green said.
“It is my prayer that this will lead to a deeper and more fruitful engagement of the Church not only for the good of our Indigenous brothers and sisters, but also for the good of all Australians.”
Bishop Macbeth-Green renewed the Australian bishops’ commitment to be part of helping support Indigenous people across the country through the Church’s many ministries, including in school education, social service agencies and health and aged care.
“The Catholic Church is supporting people in every corner of this country and we see ourselves very much as a key partner with governments, including the Commonwealth, in ensuring all people have a chance to reach their potential,” he explained.
Some of the issues Bishop Macbeth-Green raised with Ms Ley, while local, had wide-ranging implications for New South Wales and the country.
“Many people in my diocese are struggling mightily under the current drought conditions, which has a range of flow-on effects, including in employment, people’s financial circumstances and their mental health, among other things,” he said.
“Like any other constituent, I took the opportunity to explain the issues that the people in the community are facing.”
Bishop Macbeth-Green said he and other Church leaders are keen to work with people on all sides of politics who pursue policies and actions that promote the common good.