Australian Government dismisses United Nations concerns on Northern Territory intervention

Dr Djiniyini Gondarra, April 2012
Assembly of First Nations in Arnhem Land
(Katrina Bridgeford - NT News)

AAP HeraldSun September 05, 2012

The Australian Government did not formally respond to United Nations concerns about its plans to extend a Northern Territory intervention program until the legislation had passed parliament, new documents show.

The Labor government's "Stronger Futures" legislation, which passed in late June, extended the Howard-era policy to address abuse in Aboriginal communities for another decade.

Last week, it was revealed UN special rapporteur on poverty,

Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, and James Anaya. the special rapporteur on indigenous rights, had raised concerns about Australia's human rights obligations.

In a seven-page letter dated March 9 and obtained under freedom of information laws, the rapporteurs expressed concerns that discrimination and stigmatisation of Aboriginal people could be exacerbated under the Stronger Futures laws.

They also were concerned the government's consultation process with remote communities had failed to take into account literacy and education deficits.

Australia responded to the rapporteurs' letter on July 20, even though the rapporteurs had requested a response within 60 days.

In the letter seen by AAP, Australia's permanent representative at the United Nations Paul Wilson said the Stronger Futures laws would make communities safer.

"The Australian government's commitment will see continued investment in making communities safer and families and children, healthier," he wrote.

Mr Wilson said the laws complied with the Racial Discrimination Act and defended the consultation process.

"Each of these consultations have involved an unprecedented number of communities and individuals participating in meetings to have their say and influence policy proposals," he wrote.

Mr Wilson also said the legislative process had "allowed time for effective parliamentary scrutiny".

Indigenous minister Jenny Macklin has previously said the objectives of the laws are compatible with humans rights obligations.

"The policy objectives of the bills are compatible with human rights because they advance some rights and to the extent they may limit any rights, those limitation are reasonable, necessary and proportionate," she said in June.

Mr Wilson's five page letter also provided a long detailed list of spending promises for indigenous communities.

The intervention program, started by the former Howard coalition government to address abuse and drunkenness, has been deeply unpopular across many Aboriginal communities in the NT.

In April, 2012, Dr Djiniyini Gondarra from the Assembly of First Nations in Arnhem Land
called for the Federal Government to scrap the Stronger Futures legislation.
Picture: Katrina Bridgeford Source: Northern Territory News