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

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Below is a message from ‘concerned Australians’ who are organizing a petition to CERD. The petition is attached. Please note this petition is time sensitive and should be returned to concerned Australians by the end of May. If you have any questions about the petition please address them to Michele Harris at ‘concerned Australians’ harrisme@bigpond.com

Sign the petition electronically at http://www.gopetition.com/online/35341.html

or download below.

‘concerned Australians’,

PO Box 281, East Melbourne,

Vic 3008

April- May Action

Dear Friends,

We are again asking for your help. We commenced lobbying for the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) when it was suspended in 2007 at the commencement of the Intervention. Our current government promised to reinstate it when they came to power.

The Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER legislation) which is currently before Parliament includes plans to reinstate the Act. However this new Act will be a very restricted version of the one that was suspended. It will not have the powers to protect Aboriginal people from, so-called, ‘special measures’. For example when the RDA was suspended Aboriginal people had no means of appeal against compulsory acquisition of their land by Government on 5 year leases. When this new Act is reinstated nothing will change. There will still be no legal avenue to address this issue, or any other issue related to the measures.

Regarding the 5 year leases former Justice Michael Kirby said, “If any other Australians, selected by reference to their race, suffered the imposition on their pre-existing property interests of non-consensual five-year statutory leases … it is difficult to believe that a challenge to such a law would fail … .”

Calls to the Government to fulfil its promise and reinstate an UNRESTRICTED and UNCONDITIONAL RDA have been ignored. We are therefore calling on the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to press Government to respect its commitment to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and reconsider its action in the Northern Territory.

In line with the above action we are relying on your support in collecting names of those who will be prepared to support this action. On Monday evening [290310] former Chief Justice Alastair Nicholson said, “. As an Australian I am tired of my country being subjected by its Governments to classification as racist and white supremacist and I am tired of being ashamed of my country as I have been since the advent of the Howard Government and now its successor”.

This is an Australian problem, not just a problem for Aboriginal people. We are attaching a flyer (which can be used in its own right at events like concerts, justice meetings/ Sorry Day etc which provides information on the issue as well as a petition form by which we hope you will assist us to obtain support.

We are asking you to invite family, friends, work colleagues, parish members and others to join with you, and with us, to press for changes to racist policies.

Yours Sincerely,

Michele Harris

On behalf of ‘concerned Australians’

Concerned Australians flyer-petition RDA l