... So that You may be kept informed

FED: UN slams Australia's indigenous policies as 'racist'

By Julian Drape
Fri Aug 28 02:15:04 EST 2009
Thu Aug 27 16:15:04 UTC 2009
Subject: [Fwd: FED: UN slams Australia's indigenous policies as 'racist'] name="FED: UN slams Australia's indigenous policies as 'racist'.eml" filename*0="FED: UN slams Australia's indigenous policies as 'racist'.em"; Subject: FED: UN slams Australia's indigenous policies as 'racist' FED: UN slams Australia's indigenous policies as 'racist'

CANBERRA, Aug 27 AAP - A UN expert on indigenous rights says the ongoing intervention into remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is overtly discriminatory and Australia must tackle its "entrenched" racism.

The critical comments by the UN's special rapporteur on indigenous rights, James Anaya, came just hours after a proposed new indigenous representative body was unveiled by Australia's Aboriginal social justice commissioner Tom Calma.

Mr Calma told the National Press Club indigenous people had suffered from the absence of a strong national body since the abolition of ATSIC in 2005.

"We have lacked the most fundamental of requirements for a reconciled nation - a robust genuine partnership between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," he said.

But Professor Anaya believes that's not all that's been holding back indigenous Australia.

He says NT intervention measures, including compulsory income management and blanket bans on alcohol and pornography, are "overtly discriminatory" and further stigmatise already stigmatised communities.

They're incompatible with various international conventions, covenants, treaties and declarations, he said.

"Some kind of special measures could be justified but they need to be narrowly tailored to the specific circumstances that exist," the rapporteur told reporters in Canberra.

"(But currently) people who have a demonstrated capacity to manage their income are included.

"It's inappropriate to their circumstances but is also, as expressed by them, demeaning."

Prof Anaya was also scathing of Labor's insistence that housing funds would only flow if indigenous communities leased their land to the government for 40 years.

"It's a mistake to assume that indigenous peoples ... aren't capable of taking care of their homes," he said.

Prof Anaya said the Rudd government should "swiftly" reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act, which was suspended by the Howard government so the intervention's more extreme measures could be rolled out.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has promised to introduce legislation to reinstate the act in the spring session of parliament, but wants to continue many of the compulsory measures.

A new national representative body could be up and running by October next year if Mr Calma gets his way.

It won't deliver services or wield real power, but rather provide "credible and robust" advice on policies such as the intervention.

The body will be independent from government and operate as a registered company, comprising an eight-member national executive, a 128 seat national congress and an ethics council to ensure its members are all "fit and proper persons".

There'll be an equal number of men and women members, and two full-time co-chairs, one male and one female.

Mr Calma's model, which draws on 12 months of extensive consultations with indigenous people, would be set up using $5 million of commonwealth funds.

But after 10 years it would be "self sufficient, self determining and truly independent of government".

The social justice commissioner envisages government, corporate and charity dollars would contribute to a $200 million investment fund "to ensure a sufficient recurrent expenditure base for the organisation".

But that vision's already somewhat cloudy.

"The government has no plans to contribute to such a fund at this time," Ms Macklin said in a statement after Mr Calma released his model.

"The government is prepared to provide modest and appropriate recurrent funding for the national representative body once it is established, as well as providing support in its critical establishment phase."

Mr Calma believes the new representative body will help Australia own its history - both good and bad - within 20 years.

Prof Anaya also sees reasons for hope.

"I have been impressed by the strength, resilience and vision of indigenous communities determined to move towards a better future despite having endured tremendous suffering at the hands of historical forces and entrenched racism," he said at the end of his 11-day visit.

AAP jcd/it/mn=0A

FED: UN slams Australia's indigenous policies as 'racist'