August 2010


 

Tony Barrass

From: The Australian

August 26, 2010 12:00AM

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/barnett-to-force-gas-land-deal-on-kimberly-land-council/story-e6frg6nf-1225910123051 

COLIN Barnett’s patience over Woodside’s stalled Kimberley gas hub has run out.

The West Australian Premier is set to use state powers to acquire land earmarked for the $30 billion LNG project north of Broome.

The move has infuriated and demoralised the Kimberley Land Council, which wants the project to go ahead but claims it has been steamrolled in a move it says will put traditional owners under pressure from both the state and extreme elements of the environmental movement.

Woodside’s joint venture with Shell, Chevron, BHP-Billiton and BP could see more than 6000 jobs created at James Price Point, 60km north of Broome, where an LNG processing facility is planned to service Woodside’s huge Browse Basin gas deposits.

The Australian understands Mr Barnett will seek cabinet approval next Monday to begin the acquisition process. The project has been rocked by Aboriginal infighting and stoushes between the KLC and “green celebrities” such as Missie Higgins, who do not want development on the Dampier Peninsula.

“There is a real sense of loss and bewilderment and powerlessness,” the KLC’s Wayne Bergmann told The Australian last night. “The Premier is very dogged in his language and has risked destroying the entire project because of this action.”

Mr Bergmann said the Barnett government had not “adequately responded to the social impact” the project would have on the local indigenous population.

“This is not just a road, or a school or a backyard building we’re talking about,” he said. “This is a massive project that will go on for 50 years and employ thousands of people. While we believe the project can be positive, it’s got to be done properly.”

Mr Bergmann said Mr Roe’s recent court action “undermined the power and authority of the KLC to negotiate” and that although the KLC remained at the table, it was “not as an equal partner”. He said he expected green groups would now step up their campaign against the project, forcing traditional owners to be squeezed from both sides.

Mr Bergmann said he was seeking an urgent meeting with Woodside executives to convince them Mr Barnett’s plan was ill-conceived.

But Mr Barnett said he had never ruled out compulsory acquisition. The state had extended the deadline for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement to be in place as through a deal signed by the state, Woodside and the KLC in April last year.

“The deadline has been extended three times and over $16 million of state government money has been put in to fund negotiations,” he said.

“If compulsory acquisition was started, at any time if the Aboriginal people reached agreement on a consent basis, then I would cease the compulsory process.”

He said the package negotiated by state and federal governments and Woodside, believed to be up to $1bn, would remain in place.

Kimberley Land Council website http://klc.org.au/Gas/

Save the Kimberely website http://savethekimberley.com/

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The World Council of Churches (WCC) will be sending a Living Letters team to visit Australia from the 12th – 17th September 2010. The visit is in response to an invitation extended by the NCCA with the view to shed light on the human rights situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to show solidarity with the Indigenous people who feel their voices are not heard. The focus of this visit will be the impact of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER).

The invitation to the WCC was extended following a forum held in 2009 by NATSIEC. This forum brought together Indigenous Church leaders from around Australia to discuss the Australian Government’s NTER (click here for further details on the forum). The aim of the forum was to show solidarity with Aboriginal people in the NT, and to formulate a common response and plan for action. A key recommendation arising from that forum was to ask the NCCA to extend an invitation to the WCC to send a Living Letters team to visit the Northern Territory.

Living Letters are small ecumenical teams visiting a country to listen, learn, share approaches and challenges in overcoming violence and in peace making, and to pray together for peace in the community and in the world

A Living Letters team previously visited Australia in 1981 to assess the situation for Aborigines. They travelled around the country for three weeks and met with a wide number of individuals, communities and organizations. The 1981 report of this visit reflected the concerns, hopes, dreams and aspirations of Aboriginal people as heard by the Living Letters team. The report gave guidance to the Churches and hope to Aboriginal people. The independent and objective points of view were valuable to take to Government to highlight what was observed and the areas where Australia needed to do better.

NATSIEC welcomes the visit of the Living Letters team. The team of eight are Indigenous people from various countries and denominations. Delegates are coming from Bolivia, Ecuador,  Indonesia, Areatora/New Zealand,  The Philippines, The USA and Egypt and Australia.

NATSIEC will post daily updates to this blog during the visit.

For further information about WCC Living Letters click here.

This is the link to the transcript of this week’s Living Black edition on the election. Also talk about SIHIP.

http://news.sbs.com.au/livingblack//election_special_564682

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Report written by Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM on behalf of himself and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM, both of whom attended the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – 77th Session August 2010

 

I want to begin by expressing my thanks to the Quaker United Nations Office whose personnel accompanied Rosalie and myself in Geneva.

I also want to thank members of the NGO team, the Australian Racial Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes and his staff, Les Malezer from FAIRA, and the representatives from the National Association of Community Legal Services, Amnesty International and the National Native Title Council, for hearing our story and helping us to put this in our report to the Committee.

I want to thank the CERD committee itself, with the rapporteur Jose Calitzay, for truly hearing our personal experience of what is happening in the Northern Territory (NT) for the first people of Australia, and then sharing that concern back to the Australian Government delegation when they appeared before the committee.

Finally I wish to thank ‘concerned Australians’ who negotiated our appearance before CERD and enabled our travel to Geneva from our communities in the NT.  

It was encouraging for us to meet people interested in our struggle for justice and peace. We were able to meet many individuals personally. They are people who will stand in solidarity against this system that has made us victims.

The trip to the UN headquarters in Geneva was very worthwhile for us because it allowed the world to hear what is truly happening to the First peoples of Australia in isolated communities in the NT, places that have not been represented well by media and government reporting. We have repeatedly tried to bring attention to our cause through the government, and other organizations. This has not been a possible doorway.

We have not received any response from the Government –  this was a good time to go to the UN. The UN was able to hear us express that the NTER and intervention are not a special measures. It shows that what the Australian Government is trying to do is target the First peoples of this country. By going to the UN, we are asking the Australian Government to take our concerns seriously.

I can now see that the UN is the vehicle for the voice of Aboriginal people to be heard.  That is before the highest council in the world. This is the same way other countries resolve issues of race, and discrimination.

The Australian Government has supported the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and must remove the NTER measures from the legislation, and start to look at a more positive ways of working with all Australians. We must be treated equally. This is justice for everyone.

We all agree that children should be looked after, that there should not be domestic violence, that there should not be violence from alcohol. These are issues that affect all Australians. We should not have been targeted as the only people that are affected by these issues. We should be finding the solutions together.

Many Australians are concerned with how the First Australians are being treated by the Australian Government. They can see that this is unjust. Ordinary Australians can see this injustice in a democratic country and know that it shouldn’t be happening. When you share with a body such as the UN – straight away they see that Australia is racist and that the Government does not govern with the spirit of peace and order.

The survival for Aboriginal people relies on changes to the Constitution and  the establishment of a Treaty. The treaty needs to be borne out of the people who have a very strong connection with land, culture, spirituality and law. rather than being established by government, or a committee formed by government.  It should be established by the people that maintain tradition because  the necessary tools are already  in place.

Now that we are back in Australia, we want to establish an ongoing forum where there is a relationship between traditional peoples of central Australia,  Arnhem Land and groups like the Human Rights Commission and other interested parties to continue the conversation that has been started.

Visiting the UN has helped me to see that we are not alone in the struggle for human rights. There is a platform for all indigenous people of the world where we can go and share our concerns. Both Rosalie and myself felt great relief at being able to share our pain, on behalf of our people in Central and Northern Australia, in this forum.

(forwarded from concerned Australians) – further details are on our website at http://www.ncca.org.au/departments/natsiec/advocacy/issues/172-northern-territory-intervention

[Aboriginal News]

9 August 2010

UNITED NATIONS SPOTLIGHTS RACISM IN AUSTRALIA

This Tuesday, 10 August 2010, the Australian Government will attend a 
hearing at the United Nations in Geneva to explain some of its most 
controversial policies to an expert body on racism. The UN Committee 
on Racial Discrimination has asked Australia to provide it with 
information on how Australia is performing its legal obligations to 
respect, protect and promote the human right to equality and freedom 
from racial discrimination.

“This hearing is one place where the Australian Government is held 
accountable for laws and policies that have a negative effect on 
people of particular races,” says Emily Howie, Director Advocacy and 
Strategic Litigation at the Human Rights Law Resource Centre. “The UN 
Committee has already indicated to Australia that it will give 
priority to discussing particular issues, including the Northern 
Territory Intervention, the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees 
and the impact of counter-terror laws on Muslim communities”.

“The hearing highlights the inadequacy of Australia’s political and 
legal systems to properly protect the human rights of all people in 
Australia, particularly groups identified by their race or national or 
ethnic identity”, says Louise Edwards, Policy and Projects Officer, 
National Association of Community Legal Centres. “In a democracy, we 
like to think that the Government is held accountable for its policies 
every three years. Well that sort of accountability is of little 
comfort when you consider that both sides of politics have supported, 
and promise to continue, some of the most damaging and racist policies 
of recent times.”

A delegation of representatives from non-government organisations will 
attend the hearing, including Aboriginal elders from the Northern 
Territory whose communities are directly affected by the Intervention. 
Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, a member of the Uniting Church from 
Arnhem Land, and Rosalie Kunoth Monks, a former CLP candidate from 
Daly River (on the way to Wadeye), and former star in the film Jeddah, 
have flown to Geneva to tell the UN’s expert racism committee the 
stories of their communities. Their delegation is supported by a 
coalition of ‘concerned Australians’ with a broad-based community 
support.

“It should be a source of national shame that Aboriginal people need 
to fly to Geneva and petition the United Nations in order to seek 
justice and be free from racist laws at home. Aboriginal people should 
at least be reassured that their human rights are going to be 
supported by the international community,” says Les Malezer, 
Chairperson of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research 
Action.

After the hearing, the Committee will issue a report card on the state 
of racism in Australia and provide recommendations to the Australian 
Government for improving its laws and policies.

Graeme Innes, the Race Discrimination Commissioner, is in Geneva and 
will also attend the hearing.

 Annexure – Short Brief on Australia’s Review by the CERD Committee

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial 
Discrimination (the CERD Committee) is a body of eighteen independent 
human rights experts. One of the Committee’s function is to monitor 
race discrimination in the countries who are a party to the UN 
Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). As a 
party to that treaty, Australia is reviewed by the CERD Committee 
periodically. Australia was last reviewed by the CERD Committee in 2005.

The CERD Committee has flagged a number of key themes of race 
discrimination in Australia for discussion, including: Northern 
Territory Intervention (NTI): The NTI is of interest to the CERD 
Committee given the suspension of the primary form of legal protection 
from racist Government action, the Racial Discrimination Act, and the 
discriminatory impact of the raft of measures taken under the 
intervention. Not only are the measures taken by the Government 
stigmatising of Aboriginal people, they are a violation of fundamental 
human rights. For example, quarantining of welfare payments for 
Aboriginal people is discrimination on the basis of race in the 
enjoyment of the right to social security.

The CERD Committee has now asked the Australian Government to explain 
the recent amendments to the Northern Territory Intervention. The 
amendments have been criticised by the Australian Human Rights 
Commission, NGOs and affected Aboriginal communities as failing to 
restore rights and dignity to communities under the NTI.

Asylum seekers: Australia’s laws and policies in relation the 
mandatory detention of asylum seekers has been raised as an issue by 
CERD Committee, given their discriminatory application to the mainly 
Afghani, Sri Lankan and Chinese asylum seekers without a valid visa 
who arrive in Australia or excised territories by boat, most of whom 
are detained on Christmas Island. The Committee also seeks information 
from the Government about the singling out of Sri Lankans and Afghanis 
in the recent suspension of asylum claims, the ‘asylum freeze’ and 
their detention in the re-opened Curtin Detention Centre.

The last time Australia was reviewed by the CERD Committee, the 
Committee recommended that Australia review its policy of mandatory 
detention policy, including the continued use off shore detention. It 
is expected that the CERD Committee will again raise this issue and 
the developments since 2005 as a concern with the Australian Government.

Violence and vilification against minorities: The CERD Committee has 
asked Australia to provide evidence of measures taken to counter and 
prevent harassment, racist stereotypes and vilification of minority 
communities – especially African Australians, Indian people, Arab and 
Muslim Australians and international students. This is of interest to 
the CERD Committee in light of the weak legal framework in Australia 
for protection against racial vilification and negative portrayals of 
African, Arab and Muslim communities by the media (which has led to 
vilification) and the increased hostility and targeted violence 
against international students, particularly Indian students.

United General Practice Australia & NACCHO media release:

11 August 2010

The silence has been deafening on Aboriginal health – let’s hear about it

The coalition of peak groups representing general practice in Australia today joined forces with the peak body representing Aboriginal community controlled health services to call on the major parties to start talking the talk on Aboriginal health.

United General Practice Australia (UGPA) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) have called on the Labor Party and the Coalition to confirm their commitment to the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes. They stated that real increases in funding were needed in the next term of government to make a real difference in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

With less than two weeks to go in this election campaign what should be our number one health priority – the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – has received no attention.

Closing the gap on the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to that of non-Aboriginal Australians is critical in this country if Australia is to seriously claim to be a compassionate and caring nation capable of addressing health inequalities.

The Aboriginal population is most at risk from chronic illnesses, particularly preventable ones like diabetes and the best model of care for these patients is in a primary health care setting.

The major parties need to produce Aboriginal health policies that provide tangible reforms and deliverables for Aboriginal populations.

The COAG Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes was signed by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Both potential Prime Ministers need to confirm their willingness to commit to the COAG Closing the Gap Agreements and to at least maintaining the current level of Commonwealth Government funding commitment over the course of the next term of government.

 

11th August 2010

 

ELECTION 2010

Indigenous Affairs are missing in action!

 

NATSIEC is concerned at the lack of attention being given to Indigenous affairs in the 2010 Federal election. NATSIEC is a non-partisan organisation and does not take a position on who people should vote for. The following is offered as a guide to help you ask your candidates about some of the current issues in Indigenous affairs so that you can make up your own mind about who to vote for. 

What do we know about the Indigenous Affairs policies of the major parties ten days out from the election?

 

We know that Indigenous affairs are not on the agenda this election. There have been very few mentions let alone comprehensive policy statements on Indigenous Affairs. The ABC website has a section giving a comparison of each party’s policies in key areas but Indigenous affairs do not even rate a mention there (http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2010/policies/).

Labor

 

The Labor Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin gave a speech at the Garma festival last weekend in which she stated Labor’s policy agenda for the next term. If re-elected the Labor government would essentially continue what they are currently doing. Two new policy initiatives were announced. One was that a new National Framework on Alcohol and Substance abuse would be established through the Council of Australian Governments. The second initiative was to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Australian Constitution. This would require a referendum. Given the immensity of the Northern Territory Intervention it is no surprise that there is little new in Labor’s policy platform. However, NATSIEC does have some concerns about what they have been doing and how they will continue to do it.

Labor has said it wants to reset its relationship with Indigenous peoples; that they are respecting Indigenous aspirations and are committed to forging a better future. However, in the same statement Macklin quotes Machiavelli and dismisses those who speak out as those who “think they may lose out”. NATSIEC has consistently questioned how well the Government is hearing the aspirations of Indigenous peoples and how they are ensuring negotiated positive outcomes based on those aspirations, as opposed to consulting on a predetermined policy agenda. NATSIEC is concerned as to how the genuine concerns of those who are disenfranchised or hurt by policy decisions are heard and addressed, rather than being dismissed as a natural response to change.

To see Labor policies go to the Labor Policy pages (note: as at 11/08/10 we couldn’t find an Indigenous Affairs policy document on their website). http://www.alp.org.au/home/

Liberal

 

The leader of the Liberal party, Tony Abbott, has said this week that a Liberal/Coalition government would support a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the constitution, but that it should not be rushed. The Liberal party is yet to release their Indigenous policy statement.  Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion also said on the 10th August that the Coalition would take the portfolio out of Families, Housing and Community services and create a separate portfolio with a senior Cabinet minister. NATSIEC sees this as a positive move.

Liberal policy page: http://www.liberal.org.au/Policies.aspx?gclid=CJP72PaasKMCFQpJbwoddEEf5Q

The Greens

 

The Greens have a comprehensive Indigenous policy addressing key issues. It is available at http://greens.org.au/policies/care-for-people/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples

Suggested questions to ask your candidates

 

Time is running out for the major parties to present comprehensive Indigenous policies for public scrutiny prior to the election. We urge you to ring, email or write to your local candidates and question them on their Indigenous affairs policy.

If you do not know who your local candidates are you can check at the Australian Electoral Commission website. They also have contact details listed there http://www.aec.gov.au/election/who-are-the-candidates.htm

Some questions you could ask are:

  • There is an intense focus on the Northern Territory, yet disadvantage exists around Australia. What is your party’s policy to ensure gaps are closed for the rest of Australia, including Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders living in urban and rural situations?
  • What are the concrete strategies and measures your party will implement in order to achieve stated goals to close the gap particularly in health and education? 
  • What is your party’s policy on the Stolen Generations post apology? What measures will your party undertake to ensure appropriate reparations are made and services are delivered to Stolen Generations? 
  • The Labor Government has supported the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP). What is your policy regarding DRIP? Specifically, how will your party implement DRIP and incorporate its principles into domestic law and policy. For example, will you assess the current NTER policies against the DRIP? What measures will your party take to ensure that all Government policy and activities are measured against DRIP?
  • How will your party ensure that they are negotiating positive outcomes based on the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as opposed to ‘consulting’ on a predetermined policy agenda?
  • What process will your party take to ensure that expenditure on Indigenous affairs is comprehensively and transparently reported? 
  • Will your party commit to long term funding in areas such as health and education? For example, ten year funding in health as recommended by the AMA.

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