20 March 2008

Annual Social Justice and Native Title Reports tabled in Parliament today 

Amending the Northern Territory intervention legislation to maximise protection of children from abuse while ensuring the basic human rights of Indigenous people are protected is one of the major elements of a 10 point plan outlined in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Report 2007 tabled in federal Parliament today.

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

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

“For 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 public.”

Commissioner Calma said violence and abuse against children and families was a scourge that was damaging Indigenous communities.

“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 family violence, abuse and neglect,” Mr Calma said.

“The Social Justice Report 2007 contains 19 case studies which show how services generated at the local level, that engage with the community, are staffed with Indigenous people, which involve men and empower women, are the key features of successful attempts to stop violence and abuse in Indigenous communities.”

Commissioner Calma is also required to report to the Attorney - General annually on major changes and challenges in the Native Title system over the past year. The Native Title Report 2007, also tabled in federal Parliament today, calls for the Australian native title system to be immediately reviewed and a national native title summit to be held with extensive representation.

Commissioner Calma said the Native Title Act was passed 15 years ago with the intention of protecting and promoting the rights of Indigenous Australians, but the system was now too complex, too legalistic and effectively gridlocked.

“The system does not seem to be effectively recognising and protecting native title,” Mr Calma said. “We need to rethink the native title system with an open mind and focus on increasing the recognition of native title and strengthening its protection.”

The Native Title Report 2007 also looks at sustainable land practices in a climate change context. It profiles successful examples of sustainable development such as the Western Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project which uses traditional fire burning practices to reduce carbon emissions while generating income for local communities.

The Social Justice and Native Title Reports or available online at http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sj_report/sjreport07/

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/nt_report/ntreport07/

NOTE TO CHIEFS OF STAFF/EDITORS/PRODUCERS

The Social Justice Report 2007 and the Native Title Report 2007 will be officially launched in Sydney at Turner Hall, Building B, Ultimo College of TAFE on Monday, 31 March from 10 am.

The launch will include the fourth in Commissioner Calma’s ‘Essentials for Social Justice’ speech series with a speech entitled Protecting Indigenous Children: there will also be a panel discussion on the future of Native Title, including Ron Merkel QC.

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