Archive for the OPINION Category

AMPILATWATJA ANTI-INTERVENTION WALKOFF

Posted in OPINION on 06/10/2009 by D
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STATEMENT ON THE OCCASION OF THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF THE ADOPTION OF THE DECLARATION ON THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

Posted in OPINION on 15/09/2009 by D

by Les Malezer

Former Chairperson of the Global Indigenous Peoples Caucus on the Declaration

Issued for 13 September 2009

AFFIRMING HUMAN RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

Exactly two years ago, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, we held our breaths as the inter governmental global authority considered the ballot to extricate 500 years of global prejudice against Indigenous populations.

As the votes were cast, the large and diverse observer delegations of Indigenous Peoples searched the voting screen in the hope that the time to celebrate had finally arrived.

It had.

One hundred and forty-four (144) governments realised the need to set in place a definitive international standard to protect the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a paltry four (4) governments remained fixed to recalcitrant political opposition.

By embracing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples the United Nations issued unambiguous confirmation that Indigenous Peoples are collective, structured civilisations, entitled to the same human rights that all other peoples enjoy.

This simple but highly significant development in human rights, to concede the existence of Indigenous Peoples, and to confirm our human identity, ultimately will have a sweeping effect on the application of human rights law.

At the global level, it is as significant as the condemnation of slavery, as heralded by the Slavery Abolition Act in Britain in 1833.

Three countries – USA, New Zealand and Canada – remain opposed today to the Declaration.

Australia issued a strong statement of support for the Declaration on 3 April 2009, reversing its negative vote from two years ago.

New Zealand is on the verge of accepting the Declaration and public discussions are keeping the pressure upon the government to revise its opposition.

But as New Zealand grapples with the politics of supporting the Declaration, the persistent voices of opposition to Indigenous rights continue to cast hoary concerns within the New Zealand society.

‘Maori are not Indigenous Peoples.’

‘The Declaration winds back progress in the country.’

‘Maori will kick us out of New Zealand.’

Many of us recognise such miserable sentiments from the decades of extensive debate during the drafting stages of the Declaration.

A few years ago these viewpoints were very threatening and upsetting for us as we reasoned that human rights applied equally to Indigenous Peoples.

Now, following the strong support at the international level for equality and justice, these sentiments are not only redundant, regressive sentiments, they are droll.

In reality New Zealand has every reason to be proud of the Maori and to embrace the Declaration.

It is hard to conjure thoughts or recognition of New Zealand without leaning towards strong imagery of Maori identity and presence.

New Zealand is, so far as I know, the only nation in the world where the national anthem is sung in the Indigenous language, and if you do not know of the haka as a mode of New Zealand cultural reception then you do not know New Zealand at all.

Throughout the world we are waiting for USA, New Zealand and Canada to emerge from their ignobal dark stance rooted in empire dogma.

Time marches on and the Declaration is increasingly being used as the ethical gauge for Indigenous issues.

However, two years on, we are also witnessing the negative reactions following the attainment of a standard on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous Peoples are being targeted by political groups who now feel the weight of tolerance and equality against their position of power and control.

Political insurgents are resorting to physical intimidations including killings to defy the Indigenous Peoples and their rights to their territories and resources.

In Latin America, particularly, there are recent cases of violent threats being made against Indigenous Peoples and their rightful place in the political life of the State.

In Columbia and Peru, we lament the recent murders of Indigenous leaders and the bullying of the Indigenous Peoples, victimised because they now claim, with the authority of the international voice for justice, the same rights as all other peoples.

In such countries, the government and the people must come to terms with the real meaning of the Declaration and the historical change represented by 13 September 2007.

In Peru and Columbia, as lives are lost and freedoms are threatened, we must believe that it is the ‘Wind of Change’ that blows around the world and that justice and strength for Indigenous Peoples are the only acceptable outcomes.

During the past year we have seen the spirit of the Declaration escalate in the workings of the United Nations.

The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, taking up the challenge of Article 42 of the Declaration, has now provided a assessment on legal standing of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and focussed the attention of governments, jurists and Indigenous representatives on the obligations that exist in international law to promote and protect those rights.

The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has requested the Human Rights Council to ‘pay particular attention’ to the protection of Indigenous rights in its regular sessions, as well as to ensure the Universal Periodic Review procedures and examination of the periodic reports by the treaty bodies are adequately focussed upon Indigenous Peoples situations.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous People has given notice of his intention to emphasise the significance of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and exhorted the successful implementation by States through ‘good faith engagement of indigenous peoples with States and the broader political and societal structures’.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights has stressed that eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order and is giving priority to discrimination-free societies and a world of equal treatment for all. The fundamental principle of non-discrimination is the leading theme of a sustained outreach effort.

The High Commissioner has pointed out in her report to the Human Rights Council that Indigenous Peoples in many countries endure age-old discrimination and exclusion, including land grabs, the suppression of traditional customs, and outright violence.

The Durban Review Conference, held in April 2009, has given clear and unambiguous support to the implementation of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Outcome Document from the conference welcomed the adoption of the Declaration – a major priority of the Programme of Action from the Durban Conference in 2000 – and urged States to implement the rights.

But the main concern for the implementation of the Declaration lies with the role and responsibilities of States.

Implementation of the Declaration can only really be achieved if States and Indigenous Peoples work in cooperation and partnership to identify the challenges and agree upon the actions to be taken.

However States must accept that historical injustices and unequal treatment cannot remain unaddressed or be forgotten.

The States must be prepared to review their charters, laws and institutions to remove entrenched prejudices.

They must be committed to the restitution of lands and territories or where that cannot be fairly achieved, be prepared for compensation in an acceptable form.

Unquestionably, States must agree, with the consent of Indigenous Peoples, to the establishment of independent, objective and fair procedures and tribunals to resolve conflicts and disputes between States and Indigenous Peoples.

Without these fundamental approaches the situation of Indigenous Peoples may be trapped by the historically-derived disadvantages that they have suffered since colonisation or domination.

Ultimately, it is time for Indigenous Peoples to organise for change, by revising our relationships with the States to find solutions to long-standing problems and by healing any existing divisions within our communities that might impair our capacity to govern for our future well-being.

Two years ago the governments of the world accepted an international standard by which the rights and freedoms of the Indigenous Peoples are now to be adjudicated.

As another year passes we look for progressive change, and it is there.

But after centuries we are also impatient, so we want to do more than just read the Declaration; we want to live it.

So let us concentrate in the year ahead on the elimination of racial discrimination and the implementation of self-determination, and expect that next year our communities have experienced the positive elements of those winds of change.

ENDS


Statement Opposing the Commonwealth’s Proposal to Compulsorily Acquire the Alice Springs Town Camps

Posted in OPINION with tags , , on 09/06/2009 by D



We recognize the right of Tangentyere Council and town camp residents to self-determination. Town camp residents have called upon governments to address overcrowding and poverty in their communities over several years. More often than not, their demands have been ignored.

We support the recent decision by the Council to reject the Commonwealth’s proposal that would transfer control of housing and tenancy management to the Northern Territory Government. Representatives from all town camps voted to maintain community control. This is vital because of a long history of neglect and indifference to the needs of Aboriginal people by Northern Territory Housing. People rightly fear eviction and rent-increases that are beyond their capacity to pay. It is critical that Aboriginal people have the power to shape their own destinies.

We condemn Minister Macklin’s proposal for the Commonwealth to compulsorily acquire the town camps of Alice Springs. We call on the Commonwealth to respect the independence of the Tangentyere Council and to act in good faith in all of its negotiations with the Tangentyere Council.

We recognize the long struggle for land by both town camp residents and Aboriginal land holders throughout Australia. We condemn the Federal Government’s policy of withholding funding for desperately needed housing in Aboriginal communities, before Aboriginal people relinquish control of their land.

It is disgraceful that the party who championed the first land rights legislation in Australia is holding impoverished Aboriginal communities to ransom. This Government has lost its moral compass. We offer our full support to the Tangentyere Council in their struggle.

– – – – – – – – – end statement – – – – – – – – –

See list of organisations and individuals endorsing the above statement: http://stoptheintervention.org/#Towncamps

To endorse the above statement, email <stoptheintervention@gmail.com>

Sources of statement:

STICS (Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney) website:
http://stoptheintervention.org/#Towncamps

IRAG (Intervention Rollback Action Group) website:
[scroll down page] http://rollbacktheintervention.wordpress.com/

This statement is endorsed by Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (WGAR). Please note, WGAR is not the author of this statement.


Scrymgour quits and throws Henderson government into chaos

Posted in NEWS, OPINION with tags , on 04/06/2009 by D

By Chris Graham

NATIONAL, June 4, 2009: Australia’s most senior Aboriginal politician has resigned from the Labor Party, plunging the Northern Territory government into chaos.

After several days of threats she would walk unless the Henderson government changed it’s controversial ‘homelands policy’ after it lied to and insulted Aboriginal people, Marion Scrymgour this morning quit the party.

It throws the future of the Henderson government into doubt – Labor ruled with a one-seat majority, but Must now negotiate with one of two independents to retain government.

One of those independents is Scrymgour.

The former Deputy Chief Minister’s resignation followed reports in the Northern Territory News today that the Member for Arafura broke down and cried in front of her colleagues during a Caucus meeting yesterday, before backing down on her threat to leave the party.

In a written statement issued this morning, Ms Scrymgour denied the claims in the NTN story, and announced her resignation.

“I have told the Chief Minister I can no longer be part of this government,” Ms Scrymgour said.

“I can no longer rely on all Caucus colleagues to implement the concessions that I won in the Caucus meeting yesterday.

“The report of that Caucus meeting in today’s Northern Territory News is totally inaccurate.

“From now on I will represent my electorate as an independent.”

Until Scrymgour’s resignation from the party, Labor held 13 of the 25 seats in NT parliament, Just enough to govern in it’s own right.

The country Liberals currently hold 11 seats, and the final seat of Nelson is held by Independent Gerry Wood.

Labor must now negotiate with either Scrymgour Wood if it hopes to retain government. Wood is known to lean towards Labor, although after the 2005 election he was screwed out of the position of Deputy Speaker. Clare Martin gave the job to disgraced former Labor member Len Keily.

How Ms Scrymgour may vote is anyone’s guess at the moment.

This is far from the fdirst time controversy has engulfed Ms Scrymgour’s career.

Soon after Labor won office in 2003, while health minister, Ms Scrymgour criticised the health service after she became seriously ill and was hospitalised.

Known to speak her mind, Ms Scrymgour was, until recently Deputy Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, after combining with Paul Henderson to oust former Chief Minister Clare Martin 18 months ago.

Ms Scrymgour also served as the Minister for Education. But in February this year, she resigned all her ministerial positions and returned to the backbench, citing a battle with depression.

Undoubtly Ms Scrymgour was depressed. But she was also at the centre of a storm of Aboriginal outrage, after presiding over the axeing of bi-lingual education in the Northern Territory. The move outraged Aboriginal people around the nation, and Scrymgour quit shortly after.

Speculation began immediately that she wouldn’t last in the ALP.

Ms Scrymgour has since found herself at odds with the ALP over the Homelands policy. Labor recently announced it would not support any expansion of services to remote homelands communities, despite a wealth of Australian and international evidence showing Aboriginal people living on outstations and homelands were healthier than people who lived in larger communities.

The policy met with widespread condemnation – it was the latest in a string of Labor policies which have been condemned by Aboriginal leaders from the NT, and from around the nation.

She has also recently demanded an investigation into the operation of the Tiwi Land Council (TLC), amid long-standing claims that the body does not have the support of the majority Tiwi Islanders.

The TLC negotiated a 99-year lease with the previous government, in a move that outraged many local residents. It also signed a major forestry deal with looks likely to fail after the firm great Southern Plantations recently collapsed.

Ms Scrymgour this morning said she would make a full public statement tomorrow.

National Indigenous Times: http://www.nit.com.au

Source: http://www.nit.com.au/story.aspx?id=17883


Aboriginal assimilation: the Hub of the matter

Posted in OPINION with tags , , , , , on 31/05/2009 by D

Since anthropologist Donald Thompson visited Arnhemland in the
late 1930s and early 1940s missionaries and governments have not
been able to keep from interfering in the lives of Aboriginal
people in the Northern Territory. Perhaps the worst form of
intervention has been the forcing of Aboriginal clans to assemble
at one point for the convenience of white administrators. This in
the past led and continues to lead to internecine disputes
between rival clan and language groups.

At one level the suggestion is that white “saviours” intervene in
the lives of Aboriginal people to “protect” them from the ravages
of other whites. But it can’t have escaped the notice of such
“saviours” that removing Aboriginal people from their traditional
lands opens the way for other whites to lay claim to recently
vacated Aboriginal land.

When it comes to testing the bona fides of such “saviours” one
only has to look at the record of police and other protectors in
Queensland who, according to historian Dr Ros Kidd, stole the
present day equivalent of $500 million from their Aboriginal
wards.

Assimilation has been forced on Aboriginal people throughout
Australia, including the Northern Territory. The process is
allegedly employed to assist Indigenous people to accommodate to
the demands of White Australians and thereby ready themselves for
life in the mainstream. Even at its most benign level,
assimilation separates the Aboriginal person from their culture,
kin and belief systems – that is, assimilation separates
Aborigines from their Aboriginality and hence any specific claim
to separate treatment on account of their prior ownership of this
country. This further privileges the white power holders. No
serious commentator has ever suggested that the place Aboriginal
people were offered was mainstream.

The Howard government, led by then Minister Amanda Vanstone,
started the latest attack on the outstation movement by claiming
that any community of less than 1,000 people was not viable and
would be amalgamated with other communities or abolished. The NT
Labor Government then did not support such a frontal attack on
Aboriginal sovereignty. Now that the Rudd Government has handed
control of such matters to the Northern Territory Government, and
grossly underfunded the program, it has wedged the NT Henderson
Labor Government to set up a process of 20 hub communities which
will be funded to provide schools, hospitals and other services.
In their crazy white minds, this will justify denuding even the
larger of the outstations of resources such as schools.

All this comes on top of the Brough/Macklin Intervention into
Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory which
necessitated the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act so
as to force Indigenous people to comply with the quarantining of
half their Centrelink money. United Nations Committees have
condemned such action as racist.

Macklin will now be able to insist that parents who wish to
receive Centrelink payments must enrol their children in school,
even if there is no school in their community. Parents will have
to shift to hub communities or forego welfare payments that all
the nice white people in towns and cities all over the rest of
Australia get without such requirements. Alternatively, it will
involve sending their children away to school in hub communities,
leading to a new round of stolen generations.

The Rudd Government is in the process of destroying the Community
Development Employment Program (CDEP) before establishing an
employment program to replace it. The CDEP, first introduced by
the Fraser Liberal Government on the advice of Nugget Coombs, has
managed to employ 30,000 and to provide necessary community
services to hundreds of communities in the Northern Territory and
elsewhere in regional Australia. These services will not now be
provided in the Northern Territory outside the hub townships.
This will further increase pressure on Aboriginal people in
remote communities to drift into hub communities.

Much of the important cultural artifacts, the production of which
the CDEP has encouraged in recent years, has occurred on remote
outstations. Much of the Aboriginal spiritual revival has
occurred on these outstations. The health profile of people on
remote homelands is generally better than those living in larger
communities. This is not a mysterious phenomenon; it is because
people are more at one with their Aboriginal identity and more
bush tucker is consumed in such communities (Anthony 2009).

Perhaps it would not matter so much that people from remote
communities were pushed by economic factors to come into town if
there was any hope that the hub communities could accommodate
their needs. The absence of any proper plan to prepare for
transmigration is the real betrayal in the NT Government’s plan
to push Aboriginal people into these 20 hub communities. Vacant
houses are not available in the hub communities for the
new-comers to move into. There are no jobs awaiting the
newcomers. Community services and schools are already
over-stretched.

Just in case anyone is foolish enough to think that hub
communities are a brand new idea then it is time to think again.
Wadeye, formally the Catholic Mission 400km southwest of Darwin,
is typical of hub communities. It is a town of 2,500 people and
has been the site of constant upheaval for the last decade. As
Mark Whittaker wrote in November 2007, youth gangs “are based
loosely on ancient divisions between the town’s twenty clans and
seven language groups, but also interwoven by marriage to make
them more complicated. They had kept the town in a perpetual
state of hostility as historic rivalries turned to modern
squabbles.”

The whites in Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy and
Alice have amply demonstrated their racist intolerance of iterant
Aboriginal families in their towns. Forcing people into hub
communities where life is going to offer them very little will
lead to many drifting to the white enclaves of the Territory
frontier and in turn to increased criminalisation and social
dislocation. Criminalisation and social dislocation combine and
eventually lead to premature death of those subjected to these
twin processes.

If younger families with children are forced by Macklin’s racist
intervention to move into overcrowded houses in hub communities
and young able-bodied people shift there in search of work, the
old and people with disabling conditions will be left to fend for
themselves on outstations without the kin support to make life
tolerable. Their health will deteriorate and they will die
earlier than they might have – so much for Rudd’s mealy-mouthed
slogan of “Closing the Gap.”

Rudd is just the last of the colonisers who have waged a
relentless race war for 220 years against the Indigenous owners
of this country. The Labor Party in Canberra and in Darwin won’t
stop foisting their ill-thought through plans on Aboriginal
people until the last Aboriginal person gives up their last claim
to land or separate identity.

By John Tomlinson

http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=8976&page=0

UK social workers for Aboriginal communities?

Posted in OPINION with tags , , on 29/05/2009 by D

By Diet Simon

Sydney, 28 May 09 – – British social workers are being recruited to work in Aboriginal communities because Australian women would not agree to take children away from their families, a NSW Aboriginal heritage conference in Sydney has heard.

Because the federal government stipulated that women to be sent into the communities had to be ready to remove children from troubled families, it couldn’t get enough Aboriginal or white Australian applicants for the jobs, Aboriginal leader, Michael Anderson told me from the conference venue.

“Families would have to go to court to get their children back,” the leader of the Euahlayi of northwest NSW and southwest Queensland points out.

“How can anyone freshly recruited from the UK have the skills to deal with the cultural complexities of Aboriginal communities?” he asks angrily.

“This is another aspect of the Rudd government’s genocide. It is the second phase of removing children in the guise of protecting them – the same as in the 1930s.”

The Elders assembled at the conference appeal to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians “not to believe the rhetoric that this is in the children’s interest”.

“That is a line the Rudd government can no longer use,” Mr Anderson says. “We have to stop this happening at all cost.”

He points out that it will cost taxpayers massive amounts of money to resettle the British social workers in this country to do jobs their Australian colleagues refused because of the child removal issue.

“Removing children from one ethnic group to assimilate them in another group is a crime against humanity,” Mr Anderson says.

“Our children are our greatest asset. They’re our real heritage. Talk to us, let’s work out solutions together. Don’t take our children away from us.”

Mr Anderson is the last remaining of the four 1972 founders of the Aboriginal Embassy. The 16 clans of the Gumilaroi nation have elected him their spokesman.

Contact Michael Anderson on mobile 0427 292 492, email ngurampaa@bigpond.com.


JOINT STATEMENT by the Indigenous Peoples Organisations of Australia attending the eighth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues New York, 18 to 29 May 2009

Posted in OPINION, UN CERD with tags , on 29/05/2009 by D

On 24 May 2009 the Minister for Indigenous Affairs announced the Australian Government is taking steps towards compulsory acquisition of the Alice Springs town camps ‘to give children in the camps a better chance at a safe, healthy and happy life’. The Minister described the conditions in the camps as appalling, referring to acute overcrowding, sub-standard housing, alcohol abuse, despair, hopelessness and horrific crimes. The Minister announced intentions to implement a comprehensive plan to transform the town camps and provide intensive support services.

We the Indigenous Peoples Organisations of Australia attending the eighth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues decide as follows:

We strongly oppose the proposal by the Government of Australia to compulsory acquire leases over Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands or territories without their free, prior and informed consent.

We call upon the Government of Australia to comply with its international obligations to respect the rights of the Indigenous Peoples of Australia by ensuring that the representatives of the Aboriginal people in the region of Alice Springs are able to make an informed decision regarding the provision of adequate housing and services for their populations.

Specifically, we urge the Australian Government to re-open negotiations with Tangentyere Council, in concert with other relevant representative Aboriginal organizations, and facilitated by the Australian Human Rights Commission, with a view to concluding as soon as possible an agreement for urgent funding for suitable housing to meet the needs of the Aboriginal people of the region.

We ask the Australian Government to withdraw their decision to compulsory acquire the lands held by the Tangentyere Council.

In regards to the international obligations of the Australian Government we note the following paragraphs regarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples and relevant recommendations by the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations and international human rights treaty bodies.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted two years ago by an overwhelming vote of the UN General Assembly. Australia was one of only four governments to vote against the adoption of this universal Declaration but on 3 April 2009 the Government announced its support for the Declaration.

‘Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.’
(Article 23, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)

In May 2007, following a visit to Australia during 31 July to 15 August 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, recommended to the United Nations in Paras 98 and 135 of his report that Aboriginal people should be given control to the greatest extent possible of our affairs and expressed his particular concern that removal of Aboriginal people as decision makers over the use and access of the land in the Northern Territory would undermine the right of self-determination. He advised that such action ‘may call into question Australia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including its provisions on self-determination’ .

‘Australian governments must urgently address the humanitarian tragedy of the lack of housing and basic services for the indigenous peoples of Australia, living on indigenous lands and elsewhere. To this end, the Special Rapporteur encourages relevant government staff to visit and reside in indigenous communities, including town camps, and rural and remote communities, in order to better comprehend the reality and the challenges faced by the populations and communities in these locations.’
(Para 133, Report on Mission to Australia, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, UN Document A/HRC/4/18/Add. 2, 11 May 2007)

On 13 March 2009, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) wrote to the Australian Government expressing its concern that the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended in the Northern Territory and calling for a report to the Committee by 31 July 2009 on the progress made in redesigning its (the Government’s) approach in the Northern Territory in consultation with the Aboriginal communities.

‘… In order to continue a constructive dialogue with your Government, the Committee requests the State party to submit further details and information on the following issues no later than 31 July 2009 progress on the drafting of the redesigned measures, in direct consultation with the communities and individuals affected by the NTER, bearing in mind their proposed introduction to the Parliament in September 2009 [and] progress on the lifting of the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act. The Committee welcomes the government’s commitment to building a new relationship with Indigenous Australians based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and responsibility.’

On 2 April 2009, the Committee on Human Rights released its findings on Australia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Committee expressed its concern with the Northern Territory Emergency Response measures and particular concern about the negative impact of the 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.

‘The State party should increase its efforts for an effective consultation with indigenous peoples in decision-making in all areas having an impact on their rights … 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.’
(Concluding observations on Australia, Human Rights Committee, UN Document CCPR/C/AUS/CO/ 5, 2 April 2009)

On 22 May 2009, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in examining Australia’s periodic report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, expressed its concern that some of the Northern Territory Intervention measures are inconsistent with the Covenant rights, in particular with the principle of non-discrimination, and have a negative impact on the realisation of the rights of indigenous peoples and noted ‘with regret’ that measures were adopted without sufficient and adequate consultation with the indigenous peoples concerned

‘The Committee recommends that the State party take effective measures, in line with the Committee’s general comment No.4 (1991) on the right to adequate housing (art. 11, para. 1, of the Covenant), to address homelessness in its territory. The State party should implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing contained in the report of his mission to Australia… The Committee calls on the State party to take immediate steps to improve the health situation of indigenous people, in particular women and children, including by implementing a human rights framework that ensures access to the social determinants of health such as housing, safe drinking water, electricity and effective sanitation systems.’
(Concluding observations on Australia, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Document E/C.12/AUS/CO/ 4, 22 May 2009)

We also appreciate that the Australian Government has presented to this session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues a joint statement with our delegations expressing a desire that Australia meet its human rights obligations, and we recognise that a critical factor in achieving this goal is the degree to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can set the agenda, and affect policy and service delivery.

Our delegations are encouraged by the Australian Government’s decision to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Therefore, in conclusion to this statement, we support the view that the Government of Australia should establish and implement in conjunction with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process to adjudicate the rights of the Aboriginal people in relation to our lands. This provision is stipulated in Article 27 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We strongly recommend that the Australian Government provide, as a matter of priority and urgency, extensive human rights training on how human rights apply to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the areas of non-discrimination and civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The training should target all sectors of society, but particularly it should target State officials having a direct role in engagement of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the judiciary.