Monday, 31 March 2008

10 point plan to improve NT intervention

Modifying the Northern Territory intervention legislation to maximise protection of children from abuse without racially discriminating against Indigenous people is one of the major elements of a 10 point plan outlined in the Social Justice Report 2007 officially launched in Sydneytoday.

The report, produced annually by HREOC through the Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, considers the impact of government activity on the exercise and enjoyment of Indigenous people’s human rights.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, said the plan involved proposed changes to the Northern Territory intervention legislation so that it maximised protection of children and families, while respecting the human rights of Indigenous people and treating them with dignity.

“In putting forth this plan, I note that the new federal government has emphasised the importance of ensuring that the NT intervention is consistent with Australia’s human rights obligations,” Mr Calma said.

“But the fact is, as long as the NT intervention allows the conduct of racially discriminatory actions it will lack legitimacy among Aboriginal people and communities as well as the broader Australian society,” he said.

“Over the last 18 months we’ve seen sustained media coverage of child abuse and family violence, but we’ve rarely seen or heard how Indigenous people and communities across Australia are taking positive steps to respond to this violence, abuse and neglect.

“I have provided 19 case studies in the Social Justice Report 2007 as evidence of what can be achieved in the fight against child abuse and family violence in Indigenous communities when there is true engagement with Indigenous people.

“Sometimes these steps were taken because communities felt a need to take action themselves and others developed through formal and informal partnerships with individual government agencies, non-government organisations, the courts or police.

“But most importantly, every single one of them is striving to make a lasting difference and they are initiatives lead by Indigenous people.”

The Social Justice Report 2007 also identifies a number of other specific concerns about the NT intervention such as: consistency of the income management regime with the rights to social security; privacy and non-discrimination; the consistency of the alcohol management regime with the right of non-discrimination; and the absence of effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making that affects them.

The Ten Point Action Plan for modifying the NT intervention, outlined in detail in the Social Justice Report 2007, includes:

Action 1: Restore all rights to procedural fairness and external merits review under the NT intervention legislation.

Action 2: Reinstate protections against racial discrimination in the operation of the NT intervention legislation.

Action 3: Amend or remove the provisions that declare that the legislation constitutes a ‘special measure’.

Action 4: Reinstate protections against discrimination in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Action 5: Require consent to be obtained in the management of Indigenous property and amend the legislation to confirm the guarantee of just terms compensation.

Action 6: Reinstate the CDEP program and review the operation of the income management scheme so that it is consistent with human rights.

Action 7: Review the operation and effectiveness of the alcohol management schemes under the intervention legislation.

Action 8: Ensure the effective participation of Indigenous peoples in all aspects of the intervention – Developing Community Partnership Agreements.

Action 9: Set a timetable for the transition from an ‘emergency’ intervention to a community development plan.

Action 10: Ensure stringent monitoring and review processes.

The Social Justice Report 2007, community guides and media information are available online at www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport07/

Media contact: Louise McDermott on (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597