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Oboriginals In Australia Speaking Out


Posted on October 03, 2012 by Akashma Online News

Northern Territory: Australian Government Asked To Leave Aboriginal Community

Sarah Keenan, Critical Legal Thinking, 05 September 2012

Aboriginals burn Australian flag during protests in 2012.

Just over five years ago, on 21 June 2007, Australia’s then prime min­is­ter John Howard announced that rates of child sex abuse in the country’s North­ern Ter­rit­ory abori­ginal com­munit­ies were so high that they con­sti­tuted a national emer­gency. Draw­ing on the fed­eral government’s con­sti­tu­tional power to over­ride Ter­rit­ory legis­la­tion, and sus­pend­ing Australia’s Racial Dis­crim­in­a­tion Act 1975, Howard led the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in rush­ing through the North­ern Ter­rit­ory National Emer­gency Response Act 2007.  Pushed through par­lia­ment in less than four weeks, there was an almost total lack of con­sulta­tion with the abori­ginal com­munit­ies that were to be affected.
The Act and its asso­ci­ated amend­ing legis­la­tion, which quickly became known as ‘the inter­ven­tion’, intro­duced a range of racist and highly pater­nal­istic meas­ures to ‘pre­scribed areas’ of the North­ern Ter­rit­ory, all of which were abori­ginal com­munit­ies.
Those meas­ures included a total ban on the pos­ses­sion and con­sump­tion of alco­hol,
[1] com­puls­ory income man­age­ment for all wel­fare recip­i­ents (ration cards),
[2] com­puls­ory install­a­tion of anti-​​pornography fil­ters on all pub­lic com­puters as well as oblig­at­ory record-​​keeping of all com­puter users,
[3] the cut­ting back of the per­mit sys­tem for entry onto abori­ginal land,
[4] the fed­eral gov­ern­ment takeover of local ser­vices and com­munity stores as well as a min­is­terial power to sus­pend all elec­ted Councillors,
[5] the ban on North­ern Ter­rit­ory courts from tak­ing cus­tom­ary law into account when deal­ing with bail applic­a­tions and sen­ten­cing,
[6] and com­puls­ory rent-​​free five year leases of abori­ginal land to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.
[7] As an emer­gency piece of legis­la­tion the Act had a sun­set clause of five years.
The inter­ven­tion was heav­ily cri­ti­cized by a wide range of NGOs, act­iv­ist groups, and by UN Spe­cial Rap­porteour on the Situ­ation of Human Rights and Fun­da­mental Freedoms of Indi­gen­ous People James Anaya.
[8] Des­pite the increased police powers of sur­veil­lance and arrest, the gov­ern­ment failed to uncover any evid­ence that rates of child sex abuse in the North­ern Ter­rit­ory were in fact very dif­fer­ent from rates of child sex abuse in other Aus­tralian jur­is­dic­tions.
[9] Yet even with the government’s own stat­ist­ics show­ing that there was no ‘national emer­gency’ con­cern­ing child sex abuse in the pre­scribed com­munit­ies, the emer­gency Act remained in force until it reached its five-​​year sun­set clause last month. The Act has essen­tially been replaced by the ten-​​year Stronger Futures in the North­ern Ter­rit­ory Act 2012, which came into force on 16 July (the day the 2007 Act ceased) and ensures the con­tinu­ation of most of the meas­ures begun under the 2007 Act.
The com­puls­ory leases of abori­ginal land to the gov­ern­ment met with sig­ni­fic­ant abori­ginal cri­tique and res­ist­ance, and were the only inter­ven­tion pro­vi­sions to be chal­lenged in Australia’s High and Fed­eral Courts (in Shaw v Min­is­ter for Fam­il­ies, Hous­ing, Com­munity Ser­vices and Indi­gen­ous Affairs [2009] FCA 1397 and Reg­gie Wur­rid­jal, Joy Garl­bin and the Baw­in­anga Abori­ginal Cor­por­a­tion v The Com­mon­wealth of Aus­tralia and The Arnhem Land Abori­ginal Trust [2009] HCA 2). The gov­ern­ment took out 64 com­puls­ory five-​​year leases around the Ter­rit­ory in 2007. Its reas­ons for want­ing the leases were always ambigu­ous, gen­er­ally com­ing back to a need for ‘secur­ity of ten­ure’ while the gov­ern­ment brought phys­ical improve­ments and provided ser­vices to these areas.
Whether the gov­ern­ment really needed such secur­ity in order to provide essen­tial ser­vices is dubi­ous con­sid­er­ing that the gov­ern­ment does not demand leases of non-​​aboriginal res­id­en­tial areas in order to provide them with run­ning water, health clin­ics and other ser­vices, but at any rate – as the video below shows – stand­ards of liv­ing, hous­ing con­di­tions and social ser­vices have not sig­ni­fic­antly improved in the Territory’s pre­scribed areas over the past five years, and has in some places become worse. Most of the government’s com­puls­ory five-​​year leases expired on August 17, and although 34 of the 64 affected com­munit­ies have already ‘vol­un­tar­ily’ agreed to grant the gov­ern­ment new 40-​​year leases, the com­munity of Amoonguna is refus­ing to sign any fur­ther leases, and has writ­ten to the gov­ern­ment ask­ing it to remove all its work­ers by the end of this month or face charges of tres­pass. The gov­ern­ment is yet to respond.

[1] North­ern Ter­rit­ory Emer­gency Response Act 2007 (Cth), s12.

[2] As above, s126.

[3] As above,Part 3.

[4] Fam­il­ies, Com­munity Ser­vices and Indi­gen­ous Affairs and Other Legis­la­tion Amend­ment (North­ern Ter­rit­ory Emer­gency Response and Other Meas­ures) Act 2007 (Cth), Sched­ule 4.

[5] North­ern Ter­rit­ory Emer­gency Response Act 2007 (Cth), Part 5, Divi­sion 4; Part 7.

[6] As above, ss90, 91.

[7] As above, Part 4, Divi­sion 1.

[8] James Anaya, ‘Obser­va­tions on the North­ern Ter­rit­ory Emer­gency Response in Aus­tralia’ United Nations Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on the situ­ation of human rights and fun­da­mental freedoms of indi­gen­ous people (2010).

[9] Bar­bara A. West and Frances T. Murphy, A Brief His­tory of Aus­tralia (Infobase Pub­lish­ing, New York 2010) 232; Hous­ing Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment Depart­ment of Fam­il­ies, Com­munity Ser­vices and Indi­gen­ous Affairs, ‘Clos­ing the Gap: Mon­it­or­ing Report July — Decem­ber 2010′ Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment Depart­ment of Fam­il­ies, Hous­ing, Com­munity Ser­vices and Indi­gen­ous Affairs (2010). Sec­tion 6.7.

http://criticallegalthinking.com/2012/09/05/australian-government-asked-to-leave-aboriginal-community/

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