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