In 1986, Pope John Paul II addressed the following words to the Church in Australia:
“The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ speaks all languages. It esteems and embraces all cultures. It supports them in everything human and, when necessary, it purifies them. Always and everywhere the Gospel uplifts and enriches cultures and the revealed message of a loving and merciful God.” (n. 12)
“The Church in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.” (n. 13)
Pope John Paul II, Alice Springs, 29 November 1986.
Dear to the heart of the early Missionaries was the desire to make Jesus Christ and his saving love known to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people and to draw them into his Kingdom of love and peace.
The full inclusion of Catholic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into the life of the Church is still incomplete. This Commission seeks their fuller participation in every aspect of Church life and commits itself to promoting their dignity as brothers and sisters in Christ and to addressing the challenges that face them.
The Commission also wishes to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait lslander people to achieve their rightful and proper place in the mainstream of Australian society while preserving precious elements of their own culture.
1. Membership and Meetings
1.1 The Commission shall comprise four bishops as determined by the Conference by-laws.
1.2 The Commission shall meet at least twice each year at a time and place that the members determine. Use will be made of video or teleconference facilities when the agenda or circumstances warrant.
2. Areas of Responsibility
The Commission promotes the life and mission of the Catholic Church in Australia in the following areas:
2.1. Acknowledging and promoting the dignity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their respective original custodianship of Australia and the Torres Strait Islands.
2.2. Making known to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the saving love of Jesus Christ for them and drawing them as brothers and sisters into the Kingdom of God’s love and peace.
2.3. Promoting the full inclusion and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in every aspect of the life of the Church.
2.4. Assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to achieve their rightful and proper place in the mainstream of Australian society while preserving precious elements of their own culture.
2.5. Addressing the challenges that face Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
3. Particular Functions
In particular, the Commission performs the following functions:
3.1. The Commission promotes, facilitates and is attentive to the activity of the Church and its agencies in the following areas:
3.1.1 Reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal people within the Catholic Church and within the wider community.
3.1.2 The full inclusion of Catholic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the life and ecclesial ministries of the Catholic Church.
3.1.3 Increasing the awareness among Catholics in general of the unique situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people because of past and present experiences, and encouraging them to break down barriers to their full inclusion in Church life.
3.1.4 Furthering the aims and works of Dioceses and Catholic organisations in the Church’s ministry to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
3.1.5 Promoting the inculturation of the faith to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and its full expression within the Church’s liturgy and life in acknowledgement that the Church “… can enter into communion with various cultural modes, to her own enrichment and theirs too.” (Gaudium et spes n. 58).
3.2. The Commission, as approved or requested by the Conference, develops national policies in specific areas of its responsibility.
3.3. The Commission, in accordance with Conference policy, undertakes public and private activity in support of justice, education and well-being that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
3.4. The Commission undertakes such specific projects as the Conference may from time to time approve or request.
4. Advisory Role
The Commission advises the Bishops and the Conference on issues that arise in the areas of its responsibility and, where appropriate, makes recommendations for action that might be undertaken at a national level.
The Commission maintains formal relations with:
5.1. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council.
5.2. Any other advisory body or bodies the Commission deems necessary
The Secretariat for Church Life assists the Commission in fulfilling its tasks.