INDIGENOUS PEOPLES ORGANISATIONS OF AUSTRALIA
MEDIA STATEMENT from Les Malezer
23 April 2010
(*Issued at the UN Headquarters, New York, during the 9th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 19 – 30 April 2010)
HUMAN RIGHTS FRAMEWORK FAILS ABORIGINAL RIGHTS
We, the Indigenous Peoples Organisations of Australia, note the announcement this week by the Australian Government of a new human rights framework in Australia.
Therefore we use this occasion to stridently and unequivocally repeat our call on behalf of the Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples that the Australian Government reinstate immediately, and without any further procrastination, review or qualification, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.
We have already made this request formally this week at this United Nations* meeting in New York.
Until Australia unconditionally ends its officially authorized racial discrimination directed against our peoples, and until our peoples are provided with fair access to the law courts to remedy racial discrimination, Australia cannot truthfully claim to acknowledge and respect human rights.
We take note that the government, in announcing the human rights framework, no longer supports a Human Rights Bill for Australia.
That decision lacks strong leadership and is again a failure to regard all peoples of Australia as being equal.
It once again represents a breakdown at the highest level of responsibility and authority to address the injustices and
disadvantages experienced by the Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples since colonisation.
The absence of a Bill of Rights or any form of constitutional protection for the inherent rights of the first peoples remains as a deep stain upon the human rights reputation of Australia.
Our statement does acknowledge however that the human rights framework brings much needed structure to the promotion and protection of human rights.
We welcome the establishment of a joint parliamentary committee to examine human rights issues and to provide objective reports to the parliament.
This arrangement will increase the likelihood that the growing number of human rights reviews by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations will be given unprejudiced and balanced examination through transparent and accountable procedures.
We strongly support the greater commitment to human rights education of the Australian population, combined with the renewed commitment to meet international obligations under the major human rights treaties ratified by Australia.
These treaties represent the good intentions by Australia, since the end of World War 2, to construct an international framework for the protection of all peoples of the world, to end tyranny, to seek peaceful resolution of injustices and to end human suffering and inequality.
The commitment to these human rights treaties also brings inescapable attention to the treatment of the Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and we will be working to ensure that Australia’s obligations are being met under the new framework.
The Australian Government must also be congratulated for introducing ethical standards for public servants and officials to respect human rights standards and law in Australia, and for requiring compliance by Australian legislation with Australia’s obligations to promote and protect human rights.
While Government has taken the step to increase funding to the Australian Human Rights Commission and to non-government organisations for human rights education, we note that the extent of financial commitment is insufficient to achieve true success.
We call upon the government to significantly increase the budget for human rights education in Australia.
In conclusion we welcome this significant step forward in the promotion and protect of human rights in Australia, but express disappointment that the major goal of establishing a Bill of Rights has been abandoned.
And once again, we call upon the Australian Government to immediately reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act to demonstrate respect for the equality of Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia.
Contact: Les Malezer
On behalf of
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES ORGANISATIONS
National Native Title Council (NNTC)
Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA) New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC)
National Indigenous Higher Education Network (NIHEN)
Aboriginal Legal Service Western Australia (ALSWA)
Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM)
Bullana, The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Indigenous Peoples Organisation Network Youth Delegation