Church leaders and Indigenous community representatives are urging the federal government to scrap a plan to extend the intervention policies targeted at Indigenous communities.
Labor’s Stronger Futures legislation is before the Senate and likely to pass with bipartisan support.
The laws will continue the intervention policies for another 10 years and include jail terms for alcohol possession, as well as a controversial program that cuts parents’ welfare payments if their children do not attend school.
The measures are widely opposed by Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, who say they were not properly consulted on the government’s plans and the laws are racist.
Catholic bishop Pat Power urged senators on Monday to dump the bill. He said the measures would undermine the good work done by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who formally apologised to the Stolen Generations in 2008.
“The Indigenous people themselves are the ones that should be calling the shots in this,” Bishop Power told reporters in Canberra.
“Legislation won’t be successful if it’s just imposed in that way. “It needs to be owned by the people that are most affected by it.”
Ivan Roberts from the Uniting Church said the government should work to empower Indigenous communities rather than treating them as unequals.
“Aboriginal people have been here for 40,000 years,” he said.
“And they will continue to be here if we empower them to take charge of their own communities.
“They will be here not because of the intervention but in spite of the intervention.” Barbara Shaw, who represents Indigenous communities in central Australia, said communities weren’t properly consulted by the government on its plans.
“No one actually wants this,” she said.
“It’s a waste of time and it’s a waste of money.
“Everyone needs to know in Australia where the taxpayers’ money is going and it’s not helping our people.”
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said she would present a petition to parliament showing 42,000 signatories opposed to the legislation.
The Senate is expected to vote on the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Bill 2011 and the Social Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 later in June.