Thursday 24 November 2011

Human Rights Medal and Young People's medal finalists


Bullying and violence within Indigenous communities come under the spotlight

“Lateral violence, also known as horizontal violence or intra-racial conflict, is created by experiences of powerlessnesCommissioner Mick Gooda says.

“It plays out in our families and communities through behaviours such as gossiping, jealousy, bullying, shaming, social exclusion, family feuding, organisational conflict and physical violence.

“Although it has its roots in our history, it thrives today because power imbalances, control by others, identity conflict, negative stereotypes and trauma, continue to feed it.”

For this reason, Commissioner Gooda takes an in-depth look at lateral violence and its debilitating impact on the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples in this year’s Social Justice and Native Title Reports.

Both the Social Justice and Native Title Reports consider what lateral violence looks like in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“The Social Justice Report looks at the historical and contemporary factors in our communities with a particular focus on Palm Island in North Queensland, cyber bullying, young people and bullying in schools and workplace bullying, organisational conflict, social and emotional well-being and involvement in the criminal justice system,” Mr Gooda says.

“The Native Title Report considers how the native title system provides a platform for lateral violence to be played out within our families, communities and organisations.

“Although native title provides a unique opportunity for many of our communities to overcome disadvantage, these outcomes are often not fully realised because lateral violence fragments our communities as we navigate structures such as the native title system.”

He says that governments cannot and should not intervene to fix relationships within Indigenous communities.

“However, governments do have a role to play,” he says.

“They must ensure that their involvement in our lives through the development of policy and law does not create environments that breed lateral violence.

“Governments need to move away from positions of addressing the ‘Indigenous problem’ to working with us and supporting us to develop solutions to the challenges we face.”

The Social Justice and Native Title Reports consider options for addressing lateral violence in Indigenous communities based on strong structural foundations and the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, such as free, prior and informed consent.

The Reports also consider how policies, laws and programs have impacted on the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the preceding year.

The reports are available at and

Highlights of the launch