Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Intervention rides and rides again - with disastrous outcomes for the human rights of Aboriginal people

Today, the Senate is due to debate - and possibly pass - legislation that will undermine the human rights of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory until 2022.
Despite the failure of punitive policies to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, the Government looks set to renew and even expand some of the harshest measures under the Howard Government's Northern Territory Emergency Response for ten more years.
If passed, the Stronger Futures legislation would:
  • Introduce the most severe social security penalty in living memory – a 13 week non-payment period – for parents and carers whose children are not attending school regularly.
  • Reinstate prison sentences for possession of alcohol on Aboriginal Land, including up to 6 months imprisonment for a single can of beer.
  • Extend bans on the judiciary considering Aboriginal customary law and cultural practice in bail and sentencing decisions.
The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, the peak representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, has launched a petition calling on our politicians to reject these laws.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Dr. James Anaya, has condemned Australia for laws which: “overtly discriminate against aboriginal peoples, infringe their right of self-determination and stigmatize already stigmatized communities”.
Stand with Congress to stop these unfair laws and end the cycle of coercion, dispossession and entrenched disadvantage that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have faced formore than two centuries.
The Government held consultations with communities for just six weeks before declaring a mandate from the community to enact its policy agenda.
Aboriginal people attending public meetings were told they could not discuss two of the most controversial measures: income management and prohibitions on judges considering customary law in bail and sentencing.
In Senate Committee hearings, communities expressed their confusion and anxiety about the proposed laws. Many were not even aware of the Government's plans.
Without a groundswell of opposition, this legislation could be rubber stamped by politicians and implemented until at least 2022.
Its effects would be serious and long-term.

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