09/04/09: THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE & THE NORTHERN TERRITORY INTERVENTION

Contents:
UN Human Rights Committee
Intervention Video
Intervention Radio Interviews
Intervention Opinion
Intervention News
Previous Newsletters

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE, 95th Session (16 March to 3 April 2009):
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/hrcs95.htm

Concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee – Australia
[download document] http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/co/CCPR-C-AUS-CO5-CRP1.doc
2 Apr 09: “14. The Committee notes with concern that
certain of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER)
measures adopted by the State party to respond to the
findings of the report of the Board of Inquiry into the
Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse in the
Northern Territory (“Little Children are Sacred” of 2007)
are inconsistent with the State party’s obligations under
the Covenant. It is particularly concerned at the negative
impact of the NTER measures on the enjoyment of the rights
of indigenous peoples and at the fact that they suspend the
operation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and were
adopted without adequate consultation with the indigenous
peoples. (art. 2, 24, 26 and 27)
The State party should redesign NTER measures in direct
consultation with the indigenous peoples concerned, in
order to ensure that they are consistent with the Racial
Discrimination Act 1995 and the Covenant.” page 4

NGO reports to UN Human Rights Committee re Australia:

Amnesty International:
Australia Briefing for the Human Rights Committee
[download document] http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/ngos/AI_95%20HRCttee_AUSTRALIA.doc
Feb 2009: “The Government has ignored the major
recommendations of its own Board of Review appointed to
examine the effectiveness of the “Northern Territory
Emergency Response” (NTER, the Intervention). … Amnesty
International considers that many elements of this
wide-ranging Intervention, including blanket imposition of
welfare quarantining without normal appeal rights, and the
compulsory acquisition by the Commonwealth of leases over
Indigenous land in the affected communities without just
compensation, are inconsistent with the Racial
Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and with Covenant
obligations.” pp 13 & 14

Human Rights Law Resource Centre, Kingsford Legal Centre
and the National Association of Community Legal Centres:
Freedom Respect Equality Dignity: Action
NGO Submission to Human Rights Committee: Australia – Addendum
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/ngos/HRLRC_Australia_HRC95.pdf
Mar 2009: “Appendix 1 — Executive Summary (UPDATED) …
129. The current ‘Emergency Intervention’ into the Northern
Territory violates the right of Indigenous
self-determination through measures including the
compulsory acquisition of land, the suspension and
direction of representative community councils, and the
quarantining of social security payments. The legislation
was passed without consultation with Indigenous
communities and suspends the operation of the Racial
Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth). While there are some aspects
of the Northern Territory Intervention that are producing
beneficial outcomes, there are many individuals and
communities who are adversely affected by the blanket and
draconian measures.” page 39

NSW Council for Civil Liberties:
Shadow Report prepared for the UN Human Rights Committee
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/ngos/NSWCCL_Australia_HRC95.pdf
28 Nov 2008: “12.2 Overriding the Racial Discrimination Act
351. Most jurisdictions have laws against racial
discrimination. However, the federal government has shown
itself willing to override those laws without reference to
human rights standards.
352. For example, the Native Title Act overrides the Racial
Discrimination Act (RDA) to the extent that it validates
the extinguishment of native title by any action subsequent
to the passing of the RDA. The RDA was most recently
‘suspended’ to ensure the legality of the ‘Northern
Territory Intervention’, in which laws that apply only to
indigenous Territorians were passed.
353. Such actions contrary to Australia’s international
obligations is possible because Australia has no
constitutional guarantee of equality.
354. The State Party should amend its Constitution to
guarantee equality, regardless of race.” page 64

Law Council of Australia:
Shadow Report to Australia’s Common Core Document –
United Nations Human Rights Committee
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/ngos/LCA_Australia95.pdf
29 Aug 2008: “EXECUTIVE SUMMARY …
Article 2(1) – Non-discrimination and equality
A number of features of the Australian legal system
continue to discriminate against, disadvantage or
inadequately protect the rights of indigenous Australians.
These include:
* changes to the federal Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) precluding
Australian courts from considering an offender’s cultural
background or customary laws when making bail or sentencing
decisions;
* the suspension of the federal Racial Discrimination Act
1975 (Cth) and NT Anti-Discrimination laws from all actions
carried out under the NT Emergency Response Legislation
including:
– the compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal townships in
the NT;
– weakening of the land permit system;
– quarantining of welfare payments; and
* weakening the doctrine of native title by making native
title land subordinate and subject to almost any other form
of land title in Australia.” page 6

News re UN Human Rights Committee:

NIT: UN tells Rudd to ‘redesign’ NT intervention
http://www.nit.com.au/breakingNews/story.aspx?id=17486
6 Apr 09: “The federal government has been rapped over the
knuckles by the United Nations, which has called for a
redesign of the intervention into Aboriginal communities in
the Northern Territory. … The committee made the
recommendation in a report reviewing Australia’s compliance
with the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR).”

frogblog –
a political blog from the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand:
Howard’s attack on aboriginal communities condemned by UNHCR
http://blog.greens.org.nz/2009/04/06/howards-attack-on-aboriginal-communities-condemned-by-unhcr/
6 Apr 09: “The UN Human Rights Committee has condemned the
2007 Howard Government Northern Territorial Intervention.
… Its great the UN has identified the gross
discrimination of the intervention and that groups like
Amnesty International continue to campaign on this. We have
yet to see what Rudd will do about it though.”

Human Rights Law Resource Centre: UN Human Rights Committee releases Concluding Observations on Australia (April 2009)
http://hrlrc.nightandday.com.au/content/topics/civil-and-political-rights/human-rights-committee-concluding-observations/
Apr 09: “The UN Human Rights Committee has released its
Concluding Observations following a review of Australia’s
compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights. … The Committee’s recommendations
consider: … * the continued suspension of the Racial
Discrimination Act in relation to the Northern Territory
Intervention – the Committee calls for re-design of the
Intervention in direct consultation with Indigenous peoples
and conformity with international human rights obligations;”

INTERVENTION VIDEO:

ABC Lateline: New NT intervention head feels community anger
http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2008/s2531521.htm
31 Mar 09: “Mike Zissler has just taken over as the head of
the federal intervention in the Northern Terrortiy and
already he is feeling the wrath of a central Australian
Aboriginal community.”

INTERVENTION RADIO INTERVIEWS:

CAAMA Programs Radio:
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks Speaks out against the INTERVENTION!
http://caama.com.au/radio/rosalie-kunoth-monks-speaks-out-against-the-intervention/
6 Apr 09: “Ngarla Kunoth, or Rosalie Kunoth-Monks was born
in 1937 at Utopia Cattle Station (Arapunya) in the Northern
Territory of Australia. Her tribe is the Amatjere people.
… Highly respected Aboriginal Elder Rosalie Kunoth Monks
Speaks to News Director Paul Wiles on CAAMA [Central
Australian Aboriginal Media Association] Strong Voices.”

ABC PM: Territory community leaders offended by Federal action
http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2008/s2531371.htm
31 Mar 09: “He’s the new man in charge of the Northern
Territory intervention but he’s keeping silent on its
future. Former Canberra bureaucrat Mike Zissler has been
gagged from speaking to the media. PM though was able to
join him as he visited the isolated community of Utopia a
couple of hundred kilometres from Alice Springs. There,
community leaders are frustrated and offended by some of
the Federal Government’s actions.”
[Includes comments by Mike Zissler and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks]

ABC AM: Claims of success in Cape York welfare quarantine trial
http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2008/s2530600.htm
31 Mar 09: “Nine months after the controlled welfare
payment trial began in Cape York, its supporters say
there’s evidence that it’s working. … But the scheme,
which quarantines payments, has its critics.”
[Includes interviews with Noel Pearson, David Glasgow and
Boni Robertson]

INTERVENTION OPINION:

Stop the Intervention: The Sydney Centre for International
Law & the International Law Association (Australian Branch):
Twilight seminar: Race Discrimination, the Intervention and Indigenous Australians
http://stoptheintervention.org/facts/speeches/greg-marks-24-3-09
24 Mar 09: “There are a number of perspectives in respect
of the current complaint on behalf of Aboriginal people of
the Northern Territory, members of the Prescribed Areas
People Alliance (PAPA), to the UN Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) that I want to
pick up on today. These are points are not so much directed
at the specifics of the complaint to CERD, which by the way
is excellent, but some of the contextual issues.” Greg Marks

NIT: The Big Read: Body of evidence
http://www.nit.com.au/news/story.aspx?id=17479
2 Apr 09: “When the ALP was seeking office in 2007, it
promised it would take an “evidence-based approach”. But
after almost 18 months in government, and despite the
overwhelming majority of experts on the ground warning that
it’s failing terribly, Labor continues the Northern
Territory intervention, unchanged, writes IRENE FISHER.”

NIT: Editorial Opinion: A shame by any other name
http://www.nit.com.au/opinion/story.aspx?id=17453
2 Apr 09: “Last year the Sunrise Health Service based at
Katherine in the Northern Territory reported a significant
increase in anaemia rates in Aboriginal communities near
Katherine in the Northern Territory. The health service
blamed the rise on the welfare quarantines imposed as part
of the racist NT intervention. … These revelations are
outrageous. They would not be tolerated in any other sector
of the Australian community.” Chris Graham

NIT: Ringy’s Ramblings: Putrid policies increasingly on the nose
http://www.nit.com.au/opinion/story.aspx?id=17450
2 Apr 09: “If the Rudd Government’s policies in the
Northern Territory are working, then Minister for
Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin should now be in a
position to produce hard evidence of their success, writes
GRAHAM RING*. … The intervention has been running for
almost two years. She has the resources of the federal
government at her disposal – and a duty to provide the
broader community with something more substantial than mere
anecdotes.”

Crikey: Closing the Gap between rhetoric and reality
http://blogs.crikey.com.au/bartlett/2009/04/02/closing-the-gap-between-rhetoric-and-reality/
2 Apr 09: “The differences of opinion over the
effectiveness of the Northern Territory intervention shows
the importance of ensuring enough evidence is collected to
impartially assess progress. … When it comes to the NT
Intervention, the evidence and information I’ve paid most
attention to is that which comes from people and agencies
actually working on the ground in the relevant communities
… ” Andrew Bartlett

INTERVENTION NEWS:

Epoch Times:
Intervention Takes Glow out of Indigenous Rights Endorsement
http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/14948/
6 Apr 09: “The Federal Government has formally endorsed the
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples, … The move comes just weeks after the United
Nations warned the Federal Government to protect the rights
of indigenous Australians, in response to a formal
complaint that the Northern Territory Intervention is
“racist” and violates international human rights law.”

WA Today: Infant iron levels worse than in Zimbabwe
http://www.watoday.com.au/national/infant-iron-levels-worse-than-in-zimbabwe-20090407-9v93.html?page=-1
6 Apr 09: “More than half the Aboriginal children under
five in a large region of the Northern Territory are
anaemic and face a substantial threat to their physical and
mental development, a health service says. … She [Irene
Fisher, CEO, Sunrise Health Service] criticised the
intervention, saying there was no evidence it is “tackling
the social determinants of health in any thorough going
way, and in fact the opposite might be the case”.”

SMH: Activists say intervention must be reviewed
http://www.smh.com.au/national/activists-say-intervention-must-be-reviewed-20090403-9qib.html?page=-1
4 Apr 09: ” “The declaration could be put to immediate use
in Australia by providing guidance and articulating minimum
standards to help the Government in addressing some of the
discriminatory elements remaining in the Northern Territory
intervention,” he [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma] said. … the
indigenous campaigner Barbara Shaw, from Mount Nancy Town
Camp, Alice Springs, accused the Government of “absolute
hypocrisy”.”

NIT: Nurses call on Labor to reinstate RDA
http://www.nit.com.au/breakingNews/story.aspx?id=17429
3 Apr 09: “Australia’s nurses have joined calls for the
Rudd government to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act
in the Northern Territory on national Close the Gap Day.
The Racial Discrimination Act was suspended by the Howard
government to allow the commonwealth to roll out the more
controversial aspects of the intervention into remote
Aboriginal communities. But the Australian Nursing
Federation says it should be reinstated immediately.”

NIT: A mounting case of intervention failure
http://www.nit.com.au/news/story.aspx?id=17478
2 Apr 09: “The evidence that key aspects of the NT
intervention are failing is overwhelming. But don’t just
take our word for it – the failures have been widely
reported from Aboriginal people on the ground in
communities, from doctors and nurses, even from police and
occasionally politicians. Still, the intervention continues
unchanged.”

ABC: Scrap quarantining of indigenous welfare payments: nurses
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/02/2532887.htm
2 Apr 09: “The Australian Nursing Federation is calling on
the Federal Government to reinstate the Racial
Discrimination Act and make quarantining of Indigenous
welfare payments voluntary. … But the organisation’s
national secretary, Ged Kearney, says it is time the
Government allowed communities to choose whether welfare
quarantining is good for them.”

NIT: News Feature: Aboriginal activist labels UN letter an
attack on “racist” government
http://www.nit.com.au/news/story.aspx?id=17458
2 Apr 09: “A letter from a United Nations committee to the
Australian government detailing its concerns with elements
of the NT intervention is a “disguised but unmistakable
attack” upon racist government in Australia, a prominent
Indigenous human rights activist has said. The UN Committee
for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) said it
had noted “with concern” action taken by the government to
roll out some of the more controversial measures to combat
child sexual abuse.”

Byron Shire Echo: Local group opposed to Intervention
http://www.echo.net.au/news/latest-news/local-group-opposed-to-intervention/
31 Mar 09: “Leading Northern Territory activist Barb Shaw
was in the Byron Shire recently, giving firsthand accounts
of how intervention policies are affecting Aboriginal
communities across the Northern Territory. In a series of
talks … she spoke about such issues as the suspension of
the Racial Discrimination Act, the loss of
self-determination, income management … , the failure to
consult with elders … ”

ABC: NT intervention head apologises for offending communities
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/31/2530696.htm
31 Mar 09: “The new head of the federal intervention in the
Northern Territory has admitted that the intervention has
offended some communities. … Meanwhile the Tiwi Islands
Mayor, Lynette Desantis, is calling on the Federal
Government to stop its Northern Territory intervention.”

ABC: ‘Immoral’ to charge people to live on their own land: Aboriginal leader
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/31/2531288.htm?site=alicesprings
31 Mar 09: “A Central Australian Aboriginal community
leader [Rosalie Kunoth Monks] has told the new head of the
federal intervention it is immoral to charge rent to people
who are living in humpies on their own land. Mike Zissler
has met residents from the 16 homelands that make up
Utopia, north-east of Alice Springs.”

Canberra Times: Silent servant: NT intervention’s new chief kept quiet
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/national/national/general/silent-servant-nt-interventions-new-chief-kept-quiet/1473973.aspx
31 Mar 09: “The new Northern Territory intervention boss
has been gagged after only four weeks in the job. Former
Canberra bureaucrat Mike Zissler was appointed head of the
emergency response into Aboriginal communities on March 2,
replacing Major-General Dave Chalmers.”

ABC: Cape income management trials questioned
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/31/2530672.htm
31 Mar 09: “An Indigenous policy expert has questioned the
success of income management trials on far north
Queensland’s Cape York. … Griffith University’s Professor
Boni Robertson has told AM that there should be an
independent review of the scheme.”

ABC: Pearson ‘ecstatic’ about welfare reform results
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/30/2530359.htm
30 Mar 09: “Indigenous leader Noel Pearson says he is
pleased that welfare reform trials on Cape York appear to
be having a positive effect. The Cape York trials were
rolled out last year in four Indigenous communities –
Aurukun, Hopevale, Mossman Gorge and Coen.”

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