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post Charter of Rights for Indigenous Australians

April 15th, 2008

Filed under: Community Wishlist,Your Stories — newseditor @ 5:33 pm

– Submitted by Di.

Why a Charter of Rights is important to Indigenous Australians
by Tom Calma

Source from Australians All

The most revealing indicator that the NT intervention was not consistent with human rights principles was the provision at the centre of the legislative machinery used to support the intervention, namely suspending the operation of Racial Discrimination Act.

A few weeks ago I was honoured and humbled to be entrusted by the national stolen generations representative groups with the responsibility to participate in and later to speak in response to the Prime Minister’s Apology to the Stolen Generations.

I was touched by the Apology in all imaginable ways: as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; the National Race Discrimination Commissioner and most importantly as the great grandchild of a Stolen Generations woman.

‘Her mother will not part with her’. This was the chilling account of the officer who reported on my great grandmother in 1899. When I recalled this at the Apology ceremony I had in mind not solely the pain of the past, but also the responsibilities of the present, and the demands upon the future to prevent the violation of basic human rights and dignity, such as the right of a mother to care for her child.

Yet, despite our knowledge of these past events, the spectre of human rights violations remains vivid to many people living in Indigenous communities today. Most recently, we have seen the introduction of the NT intervention that, in the name of protecting children and women from abuse and violence, involves violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

The intervention adopts an approach that is entirely inappropriate from a human rights perspective by seeking to justify measures which breach basic human rights on the basis that they are taken to advance other, ‘superior’ human rights.

No one wants to see children abused, families destroyed, and the aspirations for a bright future dulled because hope has been overwhelmed by despair.

Ultimately, the sustained scrutiny and national debate on issues of violence and abuse in our Indigenous communities creates a momentum for change, and for action.

Clearly we need such action.

Such change should, however, be considered, evidence based, capable of being achieved and systemic.

In my latest Social Justice Report to the federal Parliament I argue that measures that violate the human rights of the intended beneficiaries are more likely to work in ways that undermine the overall well being of the communities in which they live in both the short and the longer term.

For example, the Government has clearly stated that the NT intervention seeks to address a breakdown in law and order in Aboriginal communities. And yet it involves introducing measures that undermine the rule of law and do not treat Aboriginal citizens equally.

This places inequality at the heart of the NT intervention measures. Such inequality will inhibit the building of relationships, partnerships and trust between the Government and Indigenous communities. It will also undermine the credibility of the measures, and ultimately, threaten the sustainability and long-term impact of the measures.

Human rights law is clear that any measures must be non-discriminatory in their application and their impact. This obligation is non-negotiable and unable to be deviated from.

Put simply, all measures to address family violence and child abuse should themselves respect human rights. It would be outrageous to suggest that it is not possible to achieve this.

What I want to see is a change to the current model for the intervention so that it is consistent with human rights, and draws on the strengths of communities so they are part of the solution and not just treated as if they are the problem.

My Social Justice Report sets out a ten-point plan for making the intervention compliant with human rights. Ultimately, this is about the workability of the NT intervention and enabling it to shift so that it can become a shared ambition and a partnership with Indigenous communities. The Ten Point Action Plan for modifying the NT intervention includes:

Action 1: Restore all rights to procedural fairness and external merits review under the NT intervention legislation.

Action 2: Reinstate protections against racial discrimination in the operation of the NT intervention legislation.

Action 3: Amend or remove the provisions that declare that the legislation constitutes a ‘special measure’. This includes by adding provisions to the legislation that require decision makers to exercise their discretion consistent with the beneficial ‘special measures’ purpose of the legislation.

Action 4: Reinstate protections against discrimination in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Action 5: Require consent to be obtained in the management of Indigenous property and amend the legislation to confirm the guarantee of just terms compensation.

For these measures, I challenge anyone to explain how providing these basic democratic protections could possibly hinder the goal of protecting children. The only possible answer is ‘short term expedience’ prevailing over guarantees of access to justice. And that is not a good enough, and is not a good enough answer.

Action 6: Reinstate the CDEP program and review the operation of the income management scheme so that it is consistent with human rights.

Action 7: Review the operation and effectiveness of the alcohol management schemes under the intervention legislation.

Actions 6 and 7 seek to address the arbitrariness of the existing regimes for income management and alcohol restrictions provided for under the intervention legislation. The report states that some form of quarantining and some form of alcohol restrictions can be justified consistently with human rights. The sweeping and discriminatory approach adopted through the legislation, however, is not that approach. The report recommends that the government seek to implement voluntary community based schemes in place of the blanket bans currently provided for.

Action points 8 – 10 then look to how the intervention can transition back to a process that is a partnership with Indigenous communities and where the ambitions are shared rather than imposed. They are as follows.

Action 8: Ensure the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in all aspects of the intervention – by developing Community Partnership Agreements.

Action 9: Set a timetable for the transition from an ‘emergency’ intervention to a community development plan. And

Action 10: is to Ensure stringent monitoring and review processes.

The most revealing indicator that the NT intervention was not consistent with human rights principles was the provision at the centre of the legislative machinery used to support the intervention, namely suspending the operation of Racial Discrimination Act. Further, immunity is provided for any act of discrimination that occurs under the provisions of the intervention legislation. This includes decisions made by bureaucrats or other agents – such as storeowners – in communities. This provides an extraordinarily broad exemption from the protection of discrimination.

In the current government’s review of the intervention measures, the first priority should be to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act. In so doing the government also needs to consider how in the longer term Australia Federal anti-discrimination laws can be made more resilient to the exigencies of political manipulation and more effective in achieving their goals of equality and non-discrimination.

There is a need for the Federal Racial Discrimination Act to evolve if it is to remain relevant to contemporary Australian society. Because of this, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission will shortly be releasing the first of a series of research papers aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the Act, and highlighting the need for future reform.

For instance the ability of the Racial Discrimination Act to deal with systemic discrimination, as well as individual complaints, needs to be improved. In addition, the burden of proof in race discrimination cases is so onerous that many incidents of racism occur without legal redress. This needs to be reviewed.

The first research paper about to be released seeks to contribute to an analysis of the continuing usefulness and effectiveness of the RDA by placing it in context with contemporary race discrimination legislation in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. By looking at the way in which other similarly placed nations have responded to the problems of racial discrimination and inequality, we are presented with a series of alternative models against which the current Australian legislation may be compared. Recent developments in these jurisdictions may suggest potential directions for legislative reform.

History tells us that neither democracy nor laws stop politicians and public authorities from pursuing a course of action simply because it overrides the collective or individual rights of minority groups. Anna Katzmann, president of the NSW Bar Association, in the context of the debate about the bill of rights in NSW, rebuffed the common argument that says our political structure has served us well since federation and that the founding fathers themselves didn’t recommend a bill of rights. As Katzmann rightly observes; ‘Yet, these are the same men who did not think that Aborigines should be counted as members of the Australian populations. These are the same men who were determined to ensure that governments could discriminate against ‘coloured aliens’.

The NT intervention among other examples (such as native title amendments in 1993) show us that the issue of basic human rights should not be left solely in the hands of a particular government or be subject to the exigencies of a particular set of circumstances. We need to have a more comprehensive legal net to protect human rights in Australia.

In the environment created by the Prime Minister’s Apology, I believe that a Charter of Rights in Australia — which specifies those fundamental rights that should never be compromised other than in grave exceptional circumstances — will assure all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that their basic rights are protected.

Some would say that a Charter of Rights in general terms protects the rights of individuals not the collective, so how would it aid Indigenous people in our struggle to have our collective rights recognised. I have in mind a few responses:

Yes a Charter of Rights is not adequate by itself to deal with Indigenous issues but is nevertheless an important element of a holistic approach that includes: capacity building; governance measures, and effective participation in government policy and service delivery.

Indigenous people – as individuals – should have the protection of a Charter of Rights as a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, their collective rights to self-determination and cultural identity.

The protection of equality and non-discrimination through a Charter of Rights may not necessarily exclude the recognition of peoples’ collective right to enjoy their culture. A Charter that protects economic, social and cultural rights, as well as political and civil rights, would contribute positively to the much-needed recognition of Indigenous rights.

The enactment of a Charter of Rights does not mean that we no longer demand the recognition of the distinct status of Indigenous Australians. Indigenous peoples are the First Peoples of this land not simply a dispersed collection of disadvantaged communities or a minority group with special needs. The unique status of Indigenous peoples should be recognised in the Constitution as a prerequisite for a genuine process of reconciliation and the promotion of a human rights culture. In addition, and at the same time, Constitutional change will be necessary to ensure that recognition, once it comes, is not whittled back in the eternal swings and roundabouts of politics.

I have called on the government to consider the Canadian constitutional precedent of recognising and affirming Aboriginal rights in Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. Such a provision in the Australia Constitution might read as follows:

The pre-existing rights of Aboriginal peoples in Australia are hereby recognised and affirmed, consistent with international human rights standards.

I strongly support the introduction of an Australian Charter of Rights because it provides protection to all Australians. I also think a Charter would provide a convivial environment to progress the struggle of Indigenous people towards the more substantive rights pertaining to our status as a people.

The issues I raise this evening may appear to some to be essentially ‘Australian’, but with a broader perspective we can see these domestic issues as part of global trends, patterns and protections.

A few years ago many of us here tonight turned on the evening news to become spectators of a race riot that was taking place in a local municipality of Sydney but could’ve been taking place in London, Paris or anywhere in Europe.

The underlying forces of discontent and conflict being played out in Cronulla in 2005 were not that different to those present in the social discontent manifesting throughout the world then and today.

About Tom Calma

Tom Calma is a Commissioner with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and National Race Discrimination Commissioner. He is an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group whose traditional lands are south west of Darwin and on the Coburg Peninsula in Northern Territory.

10 Comments

  1. thank you newseditor….I think this applies to all human rights

    Comment by T Ruth — April 15, 2008 @ 6:20 pm

  2. From today’s Adelaide Advertiser:

    Banned drinkers swamp opal town

    A “MASSIVE” influx of Aboriginal people from the APY Lands are converging on Coober Pedy to drink alcohol as a “direct result” of the intervention in indigenous communities.

    Alcohol is banned in communities where the intervention is in place.
    A report by the Umoona Community Council’s Sobering up Centre, says people who would have travelled to Alice Springs were now going to Coober Pedy because they feared the consequences of going to the Northern Territory town.

    The report says that since the Federal Government’s intervention in NT Aboriginal communities last year to stem child abuse, their services had faced a significant influx of people from Indulkana, Mimili and Fregon.

    Coober Pedy mayor Steve Baines said the situation was “even worse” than the report suggested, with people travelling to the town from as far as Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

    He said this had increased alcohol fuelled violence and significantly impacted on tourism. The “worsening situation” has renewed calls for a 24-hour police station.

    It now has 16 police officers on its roster, but when the last one finishes about 2.30am the phones are diverted to Port Augusta, 540km away.

    “We have been lobbying for a 24-hour police station for years, but now because of the intervention, the situation relating to alcohol-fuelled violence and trouble in the town is getting worse,” Mr Baines said. “We don’t have enough police officers to cope. Because of this, Coober Pedy is seen as the next party town.”

    The report also states that demand for its services had increased four fold in the past three years and people seen by the clinic were presenting with an average blood alcohol level of 0.233.

    Opposition police spokesman David Ridgway said the State Government had to provide the town with a 24-hour police station.

    “People are exploiting the fact that police don’t have a 24-hour presence and now is the time to act,” he said.

    Assistant Commissioner Graeme Barton said the situation in Coober Pedy was reviewed regularly but at “this stage the current roster system is adequate”.

    He said police were working with the community on strategies, including the installation of CCTV cameras.

    Comment by Rose — April 16, 2008 @ 7:42 am

  3. Here is a link to ‘message stick’ to have a look at the news from an indigenous perspective. It is very interesting reading.
    http://www.abc.net.au/message/news/

    My view on this is from personal experience, unfortunately. I truely belive that this child abuse/pornography/alcohol abuse problem is Australia-wide, not just within the aboriginal communities. I think the same attention/treatments should be metered out across the board, regardless of race. The focus on aboriginal communities is unbalanced.
    Australia has a love-affair with alcohol, from sporting events, celebrations, backyard BBQ’s….everywhere. It is addictive, it is a depressive drug, it is thought to ‘make one forget’ when faced with circumstances too difficult to handle. What it really does is change the character of all who over-indulge, be it white, black or brindle.
    According to reports on Message Stick, it is mainly the alcohol and poor nutrition and housing and health care, as the main contributors to the child abuse issues.
    Don’t get me wrong here Rose, I am not taking sides on this one. For every complaint about the NT Intervention, there is a complaint about its effects, from the report you posted, to reports from Darwin, where services are not coping with the influx of indigenous people coming in from the communities to Centrelink to sort out problems and so people can do their shopping at Coles and Woolies, instead of shopping locally(the food vouchers cannot be used in local stores).
    I could go on for a long time on this one….looking at all sides to the problems…but what is the cause???????

    Comment by di — April 18, 2008 @ 4:25 pm

  4. “http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/nt-intervention-creating-unrest/2008/04/25/1208743253119.html

    NT intervention ‘creating unrest’ in big towns
    Russell Skelton
    April 26, 2008

    NORTHERN Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson has privately warned the Federal Government that large numbers of Aborigines displaced by the emergency intervention are ‘creating unrest and straining police capacity’.

    Mr Henderson told Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin in confidential discussions last month that the intervention was having a ‘perverse effect on urban communities’ and further action was needed to make it work.

    His comments are the first official indication that the $1 billion territory intervention to eradicate child abuse and improve education standards is running into difficulties despite bipartisan commitment to its implementation.

    Alice Springs, the tourist mecca of the central desert, is battling to cope with the unintended consequences of the intervention, including a serious spike in public drinking and a jump in the number of violent assaults.

    The town’s once-thriving small business sector has also been savagely hit by Centrelink’s quarantining of welfare payments, a policy that encourages Aborigines to shop at the big three retail outlets — Coles, Woolworths and Kmart.

    According to leaked minutes of a ministers’ meeting in Darwin last month, Mr Henderson confirmed that large numbers of people had migrated from remote communities to urban centres to avoid alcohol and gambling bans and the negative impact of welfare quarantining.

    Cards issued by Centrelink for the purchase of food and clothing are more easily traded for cash and alcohol in urban centres such as Alice Springs.

    The newly elected mayor of Alice Springs, Damien Ryan, this week called on the federal and territory governments to rethink aspects of the intervention and face up to the unintended negative impact on residents — indigenous and non-indigenous — and business.

    There is a broad consensus among police, politicians, business groups and welfare agencies that an influx of bush people into Alice Springs has led to further overcrowding and a worsening of conditions in the 20 or so town camps, home to well over 2000 people.

    The camps, notorious for incidents of violent assault, domestic violence, substance abuse and theft, appear mostly untouched by the intervention. At Hoppies camp, people drink openly despite a liquor ban. Many children do not go to school and can be seen playing among empty beer cans.

    Territory crime statistics reveal that in December, Alice Springs had a 16% spike in the number of assaults — an average of 93 a month — and a 17% jump in house break-ins. But much of the violence that occurs in the camps goes unreported. Emergency workers report greater numbers of people are forced to sleep in parks and the Todd riverbed because of the accommodation shortage.”

    Comment: It seems obvious by the stats that this intervention is not improving the status of health and wellbeing of the indigenous folk. It seems to be working in the opposite direction. But what is does seem to be achieving is that people are leaving their out-lying homelands. I feel this the real reason for the intervention. With unoccupied native title lands, comes an opening for mining ventures to just move right in with no need for ‘royalties’ or objection. It will also be possible to dump toxic waste from nuclear power plants onto this ‘deserted’ land. What do you think?

    Comment by di — April 27, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

  5. If people want to know more from both sides, I suggest a look at this site
    WGAR News their newsletter gives many interviews, government notices, press releases and items by the people themselves.

    Comment by di — May 5, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

  6. Native Rites of Passage Today
    Aboriginal Manhood Roles when Traditional Initiation Is Gone

    © Tyson Yunkaporta

    Dec 18, 2007

    Amidst conflicting gender roles and stereotypes, Indigenous boys explore their options for becoming men in the modern world.

    In many remote communities in Australia, Aboriginal boys still have the opportunity to undergo traditional rites of passage and initiation into manhood. But for most Indigenous adolescents, this is no longer an option in communities where initiation rituals are no longer practised. So what are the options for these boys; what opportunities exist for them to become men? The odds are stacked against our young Aboriginal men, with higher suicide and substance abuse rates, and lower standards of health and education than other demographic groups in Australia.

    In a remote Indigenous community in New South Wales, one class of male adolescents is struggling to come to terms with what it means to be a man in a world where competing social roles and interests can be confusing at best, and destructive at worst. The class has identified three male roles from conflicting Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews, and is struggling with the question of how to draw on the positive aspects of these identities to construct themselves as men in an uncertain future. These roles are warriors, soldiers and fighters.
    Warriors

    Warriors are who we are and where we come from. Our ancestors lived by a warrior code. Violence was structured and had rules, so that it made the community stronger, not weaker. Today we still have those strong warrior behaviours, but we have lost the code. This makes our community weaker.

    * Kinship system, community structure, marriage rules and Law.
    * Trade, cultural exchange.
    * Men’s Business, Elders, initiation at the Bora.
    * Balance, gender roles defined, male nurturing roles, structured violence and dispute resolution, controlled ritual substance use.
    * Connectedness to land and spirit.

    Soldiers

    The Europeans who invaded our country were a people of soldiers. Soldiers do what they are told, even if it is wrong. Soldiers have discipline from outside and inside themselves. They usually destroy things rather than create things. They have strict rules in their work, but not in their life, which can make a lot of problems

    * Government control.
    * Individual choices and responsibility.
    * Social substance use/abuse as rite of passage.
    * Violence criminalised, legal for government but not individuals.
    * Market economy, big business, culture as commodity.
    * Welfare System, nurturing as women’s business, government role in care of young.
    * Exploitation and private ownership of land.

    Fighters

    This is what we have become today, from fighting for our rights and fighting to survive, and even fighting each other. There are strengths to be found in this way, but a lot of problems to overcome. We need to find new ways of becoming men that build on the strengths of old ways and new ways together.

    * Aboriginal politics, activism.
    * Scrambled family structure, wrong-way marriage, no nurturing roles for men.
    * Welfare dependency, drugs and alcohol as culture, tourist-oriented culture.
    * Unstructured violence, jail as a rite of passage, economic, health and learning disadvantages.
    * Erosion of connection with land.

    This is not a good news story, with improved outcomes and answers. These boys are merely struggling with the question, “How can I become a man today, and still keep my identity?”

    The copyright of the article Native Rites of Passage Today in Australian Indigenous Peoples is owned by Tyson Yunkaporta. Permission to republish Native Rites of Passage Today must be granted by the author in writing. Permission given by Tyson on 11.06.08
    http://australian-indigenous-peoples.suite101.com/article.cfm/native_rites_of_passage_today

    Comment by di — June 12, 2008 @ 12:58 am

  7. Aborigines and Free Trade
    The Impact of US Trade Agreements on Indigenous Peoples

    © Tyson Yunkaporta

    Dec 25, 2007
    In Australia a free trade agreement with the United States means bad news for Aboriginal communities, just as it was for First Nations in Mexico, Chile and Canada.

    Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are now in a similar position regarding a lack of consultation over a free trade agreement with the US. Australia’s sovereignty has been abandoned with a free trade agreement with the US, as at any time under this agreement the government could be overridden with regard to any policy impacting on trade. This also impacts on Aboriginal sovereignty and Indigenous rights in Australia.
    Free Trade and Aboriginal Australia

    A legacy of the Howard government, this agreement was justified economically, as providing more jobs and freer markets. Despite a couple of vague exemptions relating to guarantees of Aboriginal health and welfare policy, there are no controls in place to protect cultural and intellectual property rights. As a result, this free trade agreement will mean open season for pharmaceutical companies and agricultural bio-prospectors to strip Aboriginal lands and cultures of intellectual and ecological property.

    All Australians will feel the impact of higher prices for medicine as US companies raise costs under the Pharmaceutical Benefits scheme, but as Indigenous people have the highest levels of illness and the lowest levels of income, this will affect Aborigines more than any other group.
    Free Trade and Native Americans

    Native Americans know well the impact of such free trade agreements, having already experienced the full impact of NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement), which promoted virtual slavery in Mexico for Indigenous peoples. First Nations peoples of Canada, North and South America and the US have experienced first hand the negative effects of NAFTA, which bulldozes its way over social and environmental issues in the name of “freedom”. It must be clarified that freedom in the context of trade has no emancipatory intent for oppressed peoples, but means instead a lack of accountability for corporations in their destruction of (and theft from) local communities, economies and ecosystems.
    Free Trade and the Mapuche of Chile

    Another example of a similar trade agreement impacting negatively on Indigenous people is that of the agreement between The European Union and Chile. The Mapuche (Native People of Chile) have pointed out that the agreement does not meet the standards and ethical principles of the EU, as it completely disregards human rights, aboriginal rights and environmental protection. The agreement opens the door for multinational corporations and Chilean export businesses to increase the already rapacious stripping of natural resources and indigenous knowledge from the traditional estates of the Mapuche. Water supplies have been polluted and sacred sites have been compromised, while forestry companies have illegally taken possession of millions of hectares of Mapuche land. It is interesting to note that the highest levels of aboriginal poverty exist on the boundaries of these forestry enterprises, a fact that highlights the socio-economic impact of unchecked enterprise on native peoples.

    Aboriginal rights guaranteed under the Chilean constitution have been swept aside in this massive land grab. Human rights abuses in this action have included torture and detention without trial. Under a free trade agreement, any policy for change in this situation can be overridden under the terms of the agreement.

    Indigenous Australia could face similar issues under a free trade agreement with the US, and with the recent military intervention in the Northern Territory, which effectively suspended the racial discrimination act and virtually declared a state of martial law in Aboriginal communities, an Australian scenario similar to that in Chile does not seem too far-fetched.

    The copyright of the article Aborigines and Free Trade in Aboriginal Rights is owned by Tyson Yunkaporta. Permission to republish Aborigines and Free Trade must be granted by the author in writing.
    Permission given by Tyson on 11.06.08
    http://australian-indigenous-peoples.suite101.com/article.cfm/aborigines_and_free_trade

    Comment by di — June 12, 2008 @ 1:01 am

  8. From: blackgreensolidarity@lists.perthimc.asn.au
    original editorial from: http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/story/friends-earth-joint-submission-un-permanent-forum-indigenous-issues

    Brothers and Sisters, I am Neville Chappy Williams, a
    Custodian and Traditional Owner of Lake Cowal within the
    Wiradjuri Nation in the centre of the Murray Darling Basin,
    Australia.

    Aboriginal and Indigenous Peoples hold many of the solutions
    to heal our Mother, the Earth, from her rape by colonialism,
    which is now causing climate change. But many rogue mining
    companies and other extractive industries operate with
    impunity and impact our Nations and Peoples at the very
    core of our cultural being, at the very essence of our
    existence, through the desecration of our sacred sites and
    sacred waters.

    Our people become weakened through the assault on our
    spirituality, leading to depression, division, oppression
    and even death. Yet at this time of climate change
    Indigenous Peoples need to be strong and influential in
    caring for our Earth and each other. Our Peoples have
    already lived through global warming and global cooling,
    which caused the Ice Ages. Our collective traditional
    knowledge and wisdoms hold the keys to survival and, right
    now, it is our Mother, the Earth, who is crying out for a
    rest from mining, other extractive industries and
    unsustainable practices.

    Brothers and sisters, in 2002 at the UN World Summit on
    Sustainable Development the mining and extractive
    industries’ PR machinery managed to include in the final
    conference text the idea that mining is sustainable. But
    from our perspective as custodians, this is a crazy claim.
    To us sustainable development is taking from the Earth only
    what we need for our spiritual wellbeing and our health.
    Mining is fuelled by greed for profit, resulting in bogus
    people being put up to sign deals, desecrated sacred sites,
    degraded lands, polluted waters, divided communities and a
    legacy of mining waste, contaminated soil and poisoned
    drinking water and polluted fishing grounds. How can this
    be called ‘sustainable’?

    In the Northern Territory, the Angela and Pamela uranium
    mine near Titchikala, 25 kilometres south of Alice Springs,
    is in the middle of the artesian basin, which is the main
    water supply of Alice Springs and surrounding communities.

    In Western Australia, the Burrup Peninsula holds some of
    the oldest artwork in the world – rock carvings and
    paintings. It is a World Heritage site, but the interests
    of the Woodside Petroleum gas industry overrode the
    sacredness of this site. Now the carved rocks, which carry
    the story of our humanity, are stockpiled behind a locked
    fence.

    In our case, Lake Cowal in the middle of the Murray Darling
    Basin, Australia, we are opposed to the gold mine, but we
    have no right of veto, and have been trying for years to
    stop the Canadian company, Barrick Gold, from desecrating
    our ancient sacred lake and destroying our marked trees and
    cultural objects. One gram of cyanide can kill a human and
    we fear their practice of bringing in 6000 tonnes of
    cyanide a year into the floodplain of the lake and the
    Kalara (Lachlan) river, which forms an inland sea during a
    major flood. But, when we try to access the area, we are
    told we are trespassing and security call the armed police.

    We took Barrick Gold to court many times. We formed
    alliances with environmental groups around the world, but
    now Barrick Gold has gone ahead and are digging a large
    mine pit into the lakebed itself and have built vast
    tailings dams, where once thousands of our people have
    camped, back from the sacredness. When I flew over Lake
    Cowal in March this year in a small plane, I saw that the
    wall in the mine pit had collapsed after heavy rains, at
    the end of a long drought. Barrick Gold had not told the
    public, even though the mining was on public land. But when
    we asked questions in parliament, the NSW Minister for
    Mineral resources admitted the landslide has buried blast
    holes full of explosives. What is sustainable about this?

    We are well aware that the four countries that opposed the
    Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the
    General Assembly – Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the
    US – are the source of many of these rogue transnational
    companies.

    We have five Recommendations for this 7th Permanent Forum.
    Although the World Bank has stated in this forum that their
    policies are consistent with the Declaration on the Rights
    of Indigenous Peoples, there is a big difference between
    the World Bank’s “free, prior and informed consultation”
    and the “free prior and informed consent” in the Declaration.
    Nevertheless, we recommend that the Permanent Forum:

    1. Calls for activation of the 2005 Extractive Industries
    Review and for activation of the previous interventions to
    address the impact and legacy of extractive industries on
    Indigenous Lands, territories and natural resources;

    2. Urgently calls for funding through ECOSOC for a World
    Summit to seek solutions for Indigenous Nations and Peoples
    affected by extractive industries in order to complete
    Recommendations by 2009 for the 2010 Commission on
    Sustainable Development;

    3. Calls on the Human Rights Council to request the new UN
    Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to
    investigate how to set up an Indigenous arbitration system,
    a regulatory regime, to control the practices of the
    trans-national mining companies, other extractive
    industries, forestry and fisheries;

    4. Calls on ECOSOC to request a Joint Report, before the
    8th Permanent Forum, from the Special Representative of the
    UN Secretary-General on business and human rights and the
    Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and
    fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, identifying
    transnationals and their types of behaviour, which breach
    the inherent rights detailed the Declaration on the Rights
    of Indigenous Peoples. The report is to include:

    * Requests to UN agencies to build on the research done by
    NGOs to document the whole impact of mining on Indigenous
    communities, including environmental justice, the legacy of
    mining waste, desecrated sacred sites, degraded lands and
    poisoned waters; and make the findings available to
    concerned communities;

    * An evaluation of the amount Indigenous communities
    involuntarily subsidise the mining industry and other
    extractive industries through their natural resources,
    which are seized with minimal compensation, if any, by
    forms of colonialism perpetrated by trans-national
    companies;

    * All expert investigations into mining impacts on
    Indigenous Nations and Peoples, such as the CERD’s
    observations that both Canada and the US must regulate their
    transnational corporations impacting Indigenous communities
    outside their borders;

    5. Create an Indigenous Network on Mining Activities (INMA).
    We call on everyone at this forum to begin this network.

    Thank you.

    Neville Williams, savelakecowal@yahoo.com

    Comment by di — June 17, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  9. Indigenous Leadership Program 08-09
    Dear Colleagues
    It’s that time of the year again with new registrations being accepted for the Indigenous Leadership Program 2008-09.
    As you may know, FaHCSIA offers dynamic leadership programs and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men over 18 years old from across Australia . The Indigenous Leadership Program has been running since 2004 and approximately 6,000 Indigenous Australians have already participated in leadership development.
    The purpose of leadership development is to assist Indigenous Australians to become stronger leaders by offering opportunities to emerging and potential leaders on their journey to advanced leadership, which in turn will build stronger families and communities. Participants of the program will benefit from an interactive learning environment and will develop skills in the area of vision and goal setting, networking, negotiation, community engagement and much more.
    Registrations for the program are now open and will close on 25 July 2008. FaHCSIA will arrange and pay travel and accommodation costs associated with participation in the Indigenous Leadership Program.
    If you know of someone within your community service networks who is taking responsibility for ensuring that things go well in their family, community or organisation – then they are demonstrating leadership and this program is relevant for them.
    Staff are urged to raise awareness for this exciting opportunity and inform local networks of the Indigenous Leadership Program.
    For more information about the program and how to register, please visit http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/Indigenousleadership,
    or contact the Leadership Delivery Branch on 1800 249 873 (free call).
    Regards,
    Stacey Ward
    Indigenous Communications
    Communications and Media Branch
    Dept of Families, Housing, Community Services & Indigenous Affairs
    P 6121 4059 M 0401 044 310 E stacey.ward@facsia.gov.au

    Comment by di — July 3, 2008 @ 3:19 pm

  10. Men say sorry for abuse, violence

    By Tara Ravens

    July 03, 2008 04:46pm
    Article from: AAP

    HUNDREDS of Aboriginal men from across Australia have issued an historic
    apology to their women for the ‘pain, hurt and suffering’ indigenous men have
    caused them.

    For the past three days in the icy desert of Central Australia, men of all age groups
    from Cape York, the Top End, Central Australia, NSW and WA have discussed
    ways to be better fathers, husbands and sons.

    They also sought to repair the damage caused in the 12 months since their
    communities were denounced as hotbeds of violence and abuse.

    Since the federal intervention to combat child sex abuse was launched in June last
    year, John Liddle – from the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress – said Aboriginal
    men had been painted as brutal and uncaring.

    ‘We are not all bastards,’ Mr Liddle told the gathering at Ross River outside of Alice
    Springs.

    ‘We need to acknowledge the hurt and pain that has been caused by violence which
    has shamed many indigenous males who are not violent.’

    But he conceded good men had sat in silence, and today they issued a collective
    apology.

    ‘We the Aboriginal males from Central Australia and our brothers from around
    Australia … acknowledge and say sorry for the hurt, pain and suffering caused by
    Aboriginal males,’ the statement said.

    ‘We also acknowledge that we need the love and support of our Aboriginal women
    to help us move forward.’

    One of the authors of the report which sparked the Howard Government’s
    emergency response, Rex Wild QC, said the apology was ‘very powerful and very
    moving’.

    He said child abuse was not just an Aboriginal problem and it had been unfair of
    governments to single them out.

    ‘They are not acknowledging there is a higher rate, they are acknowledging there is
    a rate, that there is a level of domestic violence that they have now said sorry for,’
    he said.

    Major General David Chalmers, who is heading the intervention roll-out, denied the
    intervention had ‘put a bad name out for Aboriginal men’ and called for a ‘total
    solution’ to child abuse.

    ‘It has to come from within communities and government can only facilitate that
    solution,’ he said.

    Peter Yu, chairman of the board that will hand the Rudd Government a 12-month
    review of the reforms, said he would consider the summit’s recommendations,
    including community-based violence prevention programs and men’s shelters.

    Joe Hayes, a father who lives on an outstation 25km from Alice Springs, said he
    walked away from the gathering ‘a proud Aborigine’.

    ‘We have got to try and be responsible parents and our attitudes have got to change
    … saying sorry is the best part of healing,’ he said.

    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23963674-29277,00.html

    Comment by di — July 5, 2008 @ 1:46 pm

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